iBooks Author: We Nearly Made It There

iBooks Author: We Nearly Made It

There was a brief moment of euphoria, wasn’t there? iBooks Author was going to be a game changer. In a digital publishing landscape that is either expensive (Adobe Digital Publishing Suite) or clunky (Kindle Direct Publishing), iBooks Author was going to be free and easy.

And then people remembered who they were dealing with. Apple – the company that pulled Adobe’s hair until it was forced to abandon Flash on mobile platforms… And then we started looking at the terms and conditions. That’s why I’m using the past tense.

Let’s back up a bit. iBooks Author is a simple, digital book creation tool that enables authors to pour text, images and interactivity into modular templates. It understands things like chapters and content tables, so you don’t have to kludge them together in Word or InDesign. Best of all, it costs authors nothing at the point of use.

The iBooks Author announcement was the tasty filling in the middle of Apple’s new education initiative/sandwich announcement. Short version: “Textbooks for everyone!” they cried. Everyone with an iPad.

So, yeah, though iBooks Author could be a great tool for any kind of digital book – or even magazines – textbooks for schools and colleges are the intended output.

And that’s where we come to the EULA. +Devindra Hardawar was the first person to pop his hand up and say that maybe iBooks Author wasn’t so cool after all: http://goo.gl/trnMV

+Suw Charman at Forbes developed the theme: http://goo.gl/ed1j0

The EULA says that if you want to make money from the books you create with iBooks Author, you have to submit them to the iBookstore. And, as many App-makers have discovered, your work may not be accepted. That’s a lot of effort for no return. Furthermore, you can export files as PDF from iBooks Author – but the EULA says that if you do that, you can only give that work away for free.

If you really want to know all the nuts and bolts +Matt Gemmell has a super-dooper blow by blow blog post, free of sturm und drang, over here: http://goo.gl/gF9lb

Let’s be positive about this though. iBooks Author is actually pretty nice. As easy to use as Evernote or Bento and satisfyingly free of the real-world textures Apple seem determined to bolt onto every interface post-Lion (GarageBand, Address Book, etc)

If nothing else, iBooks Author is a significant wake-up call for costly pay-at-the-point of publishing services like PugPig, Adobe Digital Publishing Suite and Aquafadas Digital Publishing. Apple’s EULA is, of course, a land grab to make profit from their closed platform. But the cost to publishers is mostly invisible, because it’s taken from profit (like KDP).

iBooks Author = Free + Easy. But you dance with the devil by the pale moonlight.

What’s required, to break this deadlock? Maybe an open, browser based publishing platform. HTML5-powered. Subscription based. +Netflix for books. +Spotify for magazines.

Zinio’s not it. They only deal with established publishers and make sneaky deals out of sight of mere mortals. Issuu (www.issuu.com) is almost there, with an HTML5 powered Android reader and a (rejected) Apple reader app. But Issuu – and many of its ilk – lack front-end creation tools and the browser version is Flash powered.

Who’s going to fill the gap? Publishing industry asplosion in 10,9,8,7…

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