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New TED Books app line launches for iPad and iPhone

by David Needle

July 20 2012

TED, the conference company known for its diverse set of speakers and cutting edge topics, now has an ebook app for the iPad and iPhone.

The free TED Books app works with TED Books that will sell for $2.99 each and include video and audio embeds, social integration, and a suite of multimedia features. 

The non-profit company’s slogan is “Ideas worth spreading.” 

TED Books are short, original, electronic books produced every two weeks by the TED organization. Titles in the TED Books lineup are typically under 20,000 words, as TED describes it — long enough to unleash a powerful narrative, but short enough to be read in a single sitting.

"TED Books are designed to communicate a powerful idea in approximately one hour of reading" said TED Curator Chris Anderson. "Our new format allows the inclusion of powerful multimedia elements but without distracting from the narrative journey that any good book offers.

In a blog post earlier today Anderson said the TEDBooks app "retains the linear narrative thread that makes reading so appealing." He said some ambitious attempts to create ebooks on a tablet abandoned this idea.

"When you snuggle up with a book, you want the author to take you on a journey. You don’t want to have to make constant choices as to what to look at.

"If you think of a book as a wonderful train journey, some ebook apps effectively boot you off the train and make you travel by rental car," said Anderson. "They make you explore more than you want to. I see the TED Books app as retaining the feel of a train journey but with the added bonus that you can look up from time to time and enjoy spectacular new views.

"In other words, you start at the beginning, and continue through to the end. But from time to time, when an image or a video or an external link could add to the meaning of what you’re reading, they are there for you to enjoy.

Multimedia versions of all 16 TED Books published so far will be available in the TED Books app, including Demise of Guys by Philip Zimbardo & Nikita Duncan, Weekday Vegetarian by Graham Hill, Make Love Not Porn by Cindy Gallop, Smile by Ron Gutman, What's Killing Us by Alanna Shaikh, Beyond the Hole in the Wall by Sugata Mitra, Hybrid Reality by Parag & Ayesha Khanna, and Cheating the Impossible by Philippe Petit.

A wide-ranging expressive pallette

"Our ebooks are built on a compelling narrative, and these multimedia extras add dimension without feeling like a gimmick," said James Daly, editor of TED Books. "They are designed to provide a broader and deeper understanding of a topic. The additional features also suit the wide-ranging expressive palette of our authors, many of whom use photographs, audio, and video in addition to the printed word to express the full range of their ideas."

The 18-minute talks from the annual TED conference are made available for free after their given and have included such speakers as Bill Gates, Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Nandan Nilekani, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

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