Sunday, January 22, 2012

So earlier this week we got the news that Apple would be releasing some pretty wicked content. First, it told us of a new iBooks Store, which for an Apple techie like me, is like getting a Christmas gift early. Then we learned of a new program, called iBooks Author, a free software for authors to use to create books specially designed for the iBooks Store. Can you say, jackpot?

At least, that's what I thought before I took a closer look at their agreements for the software usage. After reading over a dozen different posts on the current layout of this software, and enough appreviations to make my head spin, I figured I'd post about it and sort of break it down for any indie or self-published or techie person out there who's been reading the other posts going, "Whu-hut?"

First, the basics. So the software is most definitely free, which unlike their Pages application (the very one I use to write anything that sets my brain on fire) yanked ten dollars from my bank account. Just like how Amazon's KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) program is free to use but takes a cut from your sales, Apple is using the same skeleton of an idea. Software free, pay cut comes when you sell stuff through them for money. Got it.

For most of the self-published industry and the people inside of it, this is nothing new. In fact, it's a little bit of a gift from the heavens. Before it was possible to do digital publishing and market yourself virally people used to scrape the bottom of their bank accounts and shovel it all into a pipe dream of publishing whatever it was they had written. I once met a woman who had self-published a cookbook on her favorite cuisines and she told me she'd invested thousands of dollars into it up front. Thousands. I don't know about you guys, but if someone told me I needed to hand over a couple grand to make my book today, I'd cry and go straight back to work and let the dream fall to the side. So naturally when someone stepped up to the plate and said, "Hey, we'll publish your book for free, you just have to give us a small cut of every sale" it was like hitting the lottery.

Second, the benefits. After hearing about the iBooks Author program, I had to look around into the detailed specs of it. Upon first glance, it looks like an updated version of PowerPoint. But like this site so kindly points out, this program definitely gives PowerPoint the look of age. iBooks Author is fresh, easy to use, and the dragging/dropping technique makes is borderline impossible to mess up on. It's rich, and the beautiful content it produces is damn near perfect.

Third, the complication. If Apple had left the software just as is, meaning it could be used to make books and market them wherever, there wouldn't even be the debate on whether or not to use it right now. Hell, they could have charged for the software and it still would have been fine. But this little complication came up, called the end-user license agreement (EULA, you see this a lot in articles about this.) What exactly is wrong with it? Huffington Post made it pretty easy to understand, stating that this EULA you have to agree to when downloading the software means that anything you make with the software can only be sold in the iBooks Store.

Does this mean they own what you write? No.
Does this mean if you make an awesome book layout in their program you can sell it on Amazon? No.

Basically, anything you make in their store formatting wise is what you can't take with you anywhere else. You still have the rights to your writing, they don't have that, I promise. But they do have the rights to the snazzy layout you just finished with photos and formatting and all that hoopla. It's a little weird, right? It's a little bit of a jerk move, right? But that's okay, worst case scenario you only make a certain book with their software and put it in their store to sell, right?

Wrong. Apple states in that little EULA thingy I mentioned above that they have the right to say what gets published into their store and what doesn't. So to make that simple, I'll project an example:

You slave over designing this awesome new book in the new software, iBooks Author, that Apple has so graciously made free. Pretty cover, lovely layout, everything is perfect. And you want to charge for it, so you remember that you can only sell it in the iBooks Store. No biggie, it'll just be an exclusive thing. And then Apple rejects your book.

So what happens next? In a word, you're burnt-toast. You can't technically sell it in another digital store, not with their formatting. You could offer it for free, but Apple already rejected the book, so now you're stuck with something that can't move anywhere and can't generate anything for you. Unless you're prepared to spend however many hours reformatting for another site, it's case closed. All your hard word, gone. Done. Finito.

Personally, I'm not too sure about this whole deal. The software sounds awesome, but for an indie author looking to put your name and work out as far as the eye can see, this is a step backwards! If Apple was looking to make their software a widely used item among authors and book creators alike, it's failing. No ammount of shiny bells or whistles could make some buckle to selling only in a digital store that holds virtually no share on the ebook market.

Have you played with the software yet? Maybe you've heard about it and are confused too? Share your thoughts in the comment box below!


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