Photographer Jim Edds, co-author of "Hurricane Journey: Life in the Danger Zone" for iPad.
As I write this article, I'm sitting in the concierge lounge on the 23rd floor of the Marriott Brooklyn Bridge Hotel, staring out the window at a beautiful view of downtown Manhattan.
But my thoughts wander to another place, Broward County in South Florida, where I recently migrated to after living in the New York Metro Area for some 40 years.
It's not just because I'm homesick, it's hump day and I want to go home and get some rest. It's because there's a dangerous tropical storm, given the biblical name "Isaac" bearing down on my home and is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 Hurricane on Sunday.
It's been a very long time since I've sat through a real hurricane. Needless to say, I'm about to get my memory jogged when I fly home tomorrow and get to experience it this weekend.
A couple of months ago I made the acquaitance of an intrepid photographer/videographer named Jim Edds, who had spotted an ZDNet article I had written on hurricane tracker applications.
As it turns out, this guy is an expert on chasing dangerous storms and had a whole bunch of apps he himself uses to do his work, so I included them in an updated version of the article.
I was curious about his work, so checked out his website, Extremestorms.com. The site is loaded with pictures and video footage from 20 years of his experience as a professional storm photographer selling pictures and video to major news outlets.
Unfortunately his personal website is laid out like something from the Netscape 2.0 days written with a shareware web authoring tool and a circa-1995 copy of "HTML for Dummies".
After speaking to him on the phone, I suggested that maybe he should get himself some professional help and clean it up a bit. As I recall, he responded with something along the lines of "I'm really too busy to do that, I'm working on a book, it's coming out in a few months, I'll get to it eventually."
I asked Jim to send me a review copy of his book when it came out. About a week ago, he contacted me and said his book was out, and it was on the Apple iBooks store.
iBooks store? Why the hell didn't he release it on Kindle? There's a hell of a lot more people who use Kindles than read books on iBooks. But ok, he gave me a download code, and I wanted to see what the heck he wrote.
What got downloaded to my iPad absolutely blew me away.
The book, "Hurricane Journey" ($9.99) which Edds Co-Authored with writer/photographer Jeff Gammons (who did all of the publishing layout and content production) is the iPad equivalent of a "Coffee Table" book, which is stuffed full of the most amazing photographs and video of hurricanes and the damage that they can inflict that I have ever seen.
In the example below, different force levels on the Saffir-Simpson Scale are demonstrated using video that Edds has taken.
If you're wondering why there's no Category 5 shown, it's because nobody on earth has managed to get daytime video of one in action yet. Edds intends to be the one to get it, and he actually invited me to come join him when he does. I have to admire such bravery, but I'm going to have to pass on his gracious offer.
All of this interactive content is combined with some truly amazing stories of how Edds routinely puts himself in harm's way, coupled with a tremendous amount of educational material about how hurricanes form, how powerful they can get, and how the National Hurricane Center collects data about them so people who live in the path of these dangerous storms can be warned before they hit.
The book is organized into six chapters -- The Lifecycle of a Hurricane, The Danger Zone, Flying Aboard the NOAA Hurricane Hunter Aircraft, two chapters on Edds' experiences filming Hurricane Charley and Hurricane Katrina, and finally, a chapter on how to best prepare for and how to survive should you get caught in the path of a hurricane.
The entire 65-page landscape format e-book was produced in the iBooks Author program, which Apple released as part of its educational initiative earlier this year.
When it was initially released, I criticised Apple because the program and Apple's EULA restricts developing textbooks for the iPad platform only. I also feel that both the iPad 2 and 3 are too expensive to use as textbooks for children and they probably aren't durable enough for kids to be throwing around in their knapsacks every day.
I still think that Apple should open this tool up to producing content for other platforms, but after seeing what Edds and Gammons have produced, I now truly understand just how powerful and useful a platform that iBooks can be, particularly when it is applied to applications such as this.
If you own an iPad 2 or 3, and you live in an area that is frequently targeted by Tropical Storms, Hurricanes, Typhones and Tropical Cyclones, then you owe it to yourself to spend the $10 and buy this book.
I'll certainly be reading it cover to cover this weekend.