Say No to iBooks Author
Apple, at their recent event announcement, unveiled a new innovation in the textbook market with iBooks Author. Most of the words around this event use flowery language of how groundbreaking it is and how it will change the market. I think it stands to do more damage to the market than help.
Let's start with the ridiculous EULA, Apple requires any work that is created with iBooks Author(IBA) to be sold only in the Apple iBooks store. Apple doesn't have the right to tell me where I can sell the work I create on my own equipment. This seems to be nothing more than a ploy to bolster the paltry selection of books in iBooks, an elite bookstore. I don't fault them for wanting to upset the publishing world because as an author, my cut of the take isn't that great with a traditional publisher. Crafting a means for authors to get a more equitable cut could only be good for them, right? In this case, I'd argue not. You would be trading masters. Get a little more money but also a master that is more ruthless.
iBooks will have to be appoved just like normal iOS apps. Though much improved in recent years, releasing an app on iOS is often unpredictable. In addition to not knowing precisely when a book will be available for purchase, you are dependent on Apple. ONLY Apple.
As Daniel Glazman, a member of the W3C CSS Working Group, notes, IBA uses a proprietary format that is not compatible with any current software. He asserts a point that is hard to argue. Had Apple participated in the standards process openly, we could have a more robust EPUB standard AND Apple would have first to market advantage. John Gruber rebuts Daniel's post stating that it IBA need not be standards compliant and throws out the canard of Amazon's mobi format being proprietary. A key difference is the mobi format is largely open, setting aside the .azw DRM variant for a second, and many tools can create them. Good or bad, anyone can publish a book to the Kindle store and have access to hundreds of millions of devices when you count that Kindle apps exist for Android, iOS, WP7, and the Chrome Web browser.
Let's go back in time a couple years to the start of the Android vs iOS debate. You'd ask devs why they didn't develop for Android and first they'd say "The iOS market is bigger." After Android activations surpassed iOS, the excuse became "The Android market is fragmented." Let's turn that argument on its head.
When you have
- more open formats like MOBI and EPUB that benefit from a number of tools that can create them,
- many online stores that sell books in those formats (SmashWords and Amazon to name a few), and
- the ability to create your own e-commerce site with your content, and,
- access to hundreds of millions devices of all shapes and sizes,
do you really want to give that all up for Apple?
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