Sunday, January 22, 2012

On the iBooks Author EUA

Okay, this was a response to a post about the "whining" going on regarding the Apple iBooks EUA which states clearly that works published with iBooks Author, which are SOLD (not the free ones), then the author is not allowed to publish their own work on any other ePub site for sale.

Specifically, it says:
 “IMPORTANT NOTE: If you charge a fee for any book or other work you generate using this software (a “Work”), you may only sell or distribute such Work through Apple (e.g., through the iBookstore) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple.” 
A colleague of mine, Tim Holt, (who I think is convinced I am some kind of Apple-hater, when in fact, I am platform neutral and don't give a rip as long as the platform gives me what I want), posted his findings/response to my gripe.  The link to his piece can be found at the end of this response.

In general, the arguments made regarding this part of the agreement are summed up here (taken from Tim Holt's Tumblr):

  • If you create a book using iBooks Author and you plan to sell it, you have to sell it through Apple. (You can’t for instance, also sell it on Kindle, or Nook, or in the Android market.) 
  • It only works on iBooks 2 for iPad. 
  • You CAN give it away for free to whomever you want to. You can export it as a PDF file and give it away. But you have to use Apple if you want to sell it.

The responses to those of us opposed to that little piece generally include things like:

  • You don't have to use iBooks Author.
  • Go back to Word, you PC-loving moron (paraphrasing for the purpose of keeping things clean)
  • The output is akin to creating an app.  If you create an Android app, you can't just sell it on iOS just because you want to.  The output is not something like regular word processing output.
And, thus, my response was born:

First of all, I see no correlation between what Apple is doing and PC users. I use a Mac and a PC and my gripe with Apple has nothing to do with the software being "Apple-only." I don't use Microsoft Word on my Mac. I don't use Pages, either. So what? That has nothing to do with it.  I am sick of Mac fanboys crying "PC" and "Microsoft" just because someone doesn't agree with the almighty Apple.

Secondly, this is not about how the content is created, but rather the distribution of the content. In fact, if I do NOT use the program at all, I can not only sell the book through iBooks, but I can sell it in any number of open or device-specific formats I choose!  My books are currently available through ePub format on Lulu, Smashwords, iBooks, Kindle, and a myriad of others.

Thirdly, I know I don't have to use it. In fact, I can't use it because it requires Lion, which is a piece-of-junk GUI overlay - Apple's equivalent of Vista. Yay for us Mac users.  I can (and do) use a variety of products to create my electronic documents. And, like it or not, an iBook is just that - an electronic document. iBooks Author ties the creation process to the distribution process.  Many folks believe it should be no different than choosing which program they'd like to use for their next presentation: be it Prezi, Powerpoint, Keynote, FlipCards, etc.

Fourth, I see tying the program to distribution as ludicrous. What would you all say if Adobe required you save any and all photos you edit with their products to their site only? Yes, there are other programs, but humor me. The output is open-source JPEG/PNG/you name it (in that example). Now, if iBooks Author ONLY outputs the file as some proprietary Apple-only format, then by all means, have at it (though such user agreements are ridiculous in today's connected, digital world, but we'll save that for another day).

What does the PRICE have anything to do with anything? Ah, yes, because if it is FREE then Apple isn't missing out on reaming its customer base (that is, its status quo modus operandi).  But, if Apple thinks it is going to miss out on 33% of your sales, then, by golly, it will do what it can to keep that from happening!  As an aside, if you choose to publish your work through Apple (outside of iBooks Author, I mean), Apple "requires" that you do not sell your book any cheaper than the price you have listed in the iBookstore.  Ridiculous.

iBooks Author may be a "cool tool," but self-published authors who wish to reach the widest possible audience will happily use the myriad of other solutions anyway. The fact is, Apple limits its own users (again, standard for its own operating procedures). You can cut the EUA any way you want, it still spells out a restricted distribution channel in black and white.

Now, being a self-published author, the Apple EUA *does* make sense if one compares it to that of a traditional publisher. If my book is published by Random House, for example, then I can't very well load it up on iBooks, Lulu, CreateSpace, Smashwords, or anywhere else without RH's permission - which they would never give.  And *THAT* is exactly what the Apple EUA is telling us.

This is very much about the DISTRIBUTION of the content one creates using the program.  The arguments made above really have nothing to do with what people seem to THINK Apple is doing.  What they ARE doing is providing a tool to their distribution channel.  You don't have to use it.  But, if you *DO* use it, then you agree to sell your books ONLY through Apple's distribution.  Frankly, I don't see why "free" makes a hill of beans difference.  I suppose that was Apple's bone to the user. I dunno.  They should just say that ALL WORKS created with the program require their own distribution system.  I don't think anyone would have said much.  Well, yes, they would.  Why?  Because we hate being forced (used loosely here) into some corporate mold.

User beware: If you choose to use the program, you choose to have your distribution limited to Apple. Plain and simple.

Tim's article appears here:

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