iBooks Author Elicits Mixed Reactions

The release of iBooks Author by Apple last Thursday has created a flurry of mixed reactions among writers in the computer industry. While the iBooks 2 reading app adds some great features for reading books, such as highlighting text, flash card creation, and high quality interactive books, the authoring program seems to have some issues. It’s a no brainer that iBooks 2 will reduce the long-term cost of textbooks for students, yet the initial investment may be a problem for those that cannot afford an iPad.
What seems to irk potential authors though, is the licensing agreement for those who want to create books in iBook author. The supported ePub format book may only be published in the iBookstore if you charge for your creation, there’s a 2GB limit, Apple gets a 30% cut of the sales, and you must make a sample available. Some of the restrictions do not apply if your book is free.
Dan Wineman noted in his blog, that the restrictions specified in the End User License Agreement, referred to as EULA, which you only see if you download the software, are unprecedented. He states, that Apple “is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. ”
To me this feels like a kind of Bizarro work for hire, in that Apple takes over ownership, at least in part. A writer who engages in a work for hire for a company basically gives the product to the company. There are no royalties paid or any retained rights. Now obviously, you do get the monies charged for an iBook Author creation, and it is your creation, but Apple lords over you. They take a 30% cut of the transaction, instead of an agent’s 15 to 25%, plus they determine who can publish the work, i.e. them. Apple also retains the right to reject your creation.
Whether this is fair business practices will be born out by how many people publish books in Apple’s distribution channel. Most writers seem to think the opportunity will be most used by new authors, unpublished authors, or others who are not concerned with who owns their work. If Apple rejects your book, you cannot take it to another publisher unless you export the content out of its iBook Author format, which means you must recreate your work in some other formatting program. Most authors attempt to get their books in multiple sales channels to optimize their time investment and profits, but Apple’s restrictions disallow that. If their iBookstore becomes as popular as the iTunes or App store as a sales vehicle, maybe it won’t be so bad for the authors.
Over the next year it should be interesting to see who chooses Apple iBooks Author to sell their work versus the traditional book or ePub publishing route.

Comments: 5 Responses to “iBooks Author Elicits Mixed Reactions”

    12 years ago

    Look at it this way. I agree to write book. Apple agrees to provide the tools , sales process,marketing and distribution I get 30%. I can still use my raw text not in iBook format. I still hold all rights to it. It seems a pretty staringht forward business relationship.

      12 years ago

      Actually Ed, Apple takes 30%, so you would get 70% of sales. I believe that the percentage Apple takes is a bit steep compared to traditional book publishers. With most publishers you get the needed tools, such as MS Word, and they do the marketing and distribution.

    12 years ago

    As a person who engages in wholesale, I have no problem with Apple taking 30%. Most of my clients will markup 100 to 150% over my cost. I'm not seeing the problem here.

    12 years ago

    Michael, I don't think it's the percentage that irks most writers. It seems that the fact they are prohibited from using other distribution channels that bothers them. Face it, books sell really well from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

    S Cannon
    12 years ago

    I think Apple's 30% is fair but the inability to publish in multi-formats and sell though multi channels is problematic. The interactive format for iPad is a fixed format ePub specific to the iPad so if this is your desired book struture and platfrom then your really not concerned for now.

    Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) costs $395 for a single published app for iPad for the small user. You also need Indesign to create the base ePub and then DPS to create the iPad folio. However you can out put the base ePub for Nook, Sony, and Kindle ( after mobi conversion).

    The wild, wild west for now?

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