Why the hand-wringing over Apple’s iBooks Author is wrong

“A smattering of journalist authors are freaking out over Apple’s license agreement for the free new iBooks Author tool,” Mike Elgan writes for Cult of Mac.

“ZDnet’s Ed Bott called the license agreement ‘greedy and evil.’ PCmag.com’s Sascha Segan wrote: ‘Like iBooks Author? Apple now owns you.’ Even Daring Fireball’s John Gruber called it ‘Apple at its worst,'” Elgan writes. “Et tu, Gruber?”

Elgan writes, “What’s strange about these emotional responses to Apple’s legalese is that they fail the reality test. Apple’s iBooks Author terms are neither greedy nor evil; they don’t mean Apple’s ‘owns you;’ and it’s certainly not the worst thing Apple has ever done.”

“Emotional responses to this licensing agreement are natural, given the unusual terms it contains. But once the emotion has subsided, and the facts are considered with a cool head, Apple’s new iBooks Author looks like a pretty good deal,” Elgan writes. “I’m predicting that a whole lot of authors are going to love it.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz,” “Dow C.,” and “Brawndo Drinker” for the heads up.]


  1. But I want to use the free Apple interactive software and publish books to Amazon so I too can give a great 70% to Amazon for selling my books.
    I don’t want to actually buy author software, only use the superior Apple stuff.

  2. I tried to download iBooks Editor but kept getting error messages; I want to test it out to see if it would help designers (mainly crochet/knit) who want to self-publish in format other than .pdf.

    1. iBook Author – not editor – its a huge download and with so many people downloading at once I think you should try later.
      Its fairly nice. It’s kind-of-like Pages and sort-of-like Keynotes remembrances of iWeb — yes all Apple. Easy to use – and familiar if you use other Apple Apps.

  3. The only clause of real concern is the one stating that apple may choose not to distribute. They have not however (as far as I can glean from the article) given upon what situations they might choose not to distribute.

    We know that they have avowed never to go into porn – and this has translated to many apps in the appstore being censored or removed. Could the same happen in books?

    Could – for example – a book which decides to explicitly deal with sex education – be deemed unfit for publication because of the graphic nature of it’s content?

    I’m unclear as to whether this app is just for education based books, but if not, could quality adult erotica (text based) be rejected also?

    It’s only the censorship angle which worries me.

    1. Note taking, highlighting, study card and iTunes University. Just like digital music, you own it when you buy it, play it with and without internet, distribution via iTunes.

    2. I can think of one big difference – the authors will be able you earn money for their content. Also, pinch to zoom and slideshow widgets are still not that easy for content people (e.g. teachers and professors) with no web programing experience to create. For the reader, the difference is they get a seamless, high-quality interactive experience that is still somewhat rare on the web (though this may change in the future).

    3. True – but its offline. The Textbooks are downloaded to the iPad — accessible anytime – no internet connection required once loaded. However, a text book is about 1Gb per chapter – massive books – requiring lots of memory – best buy 64Gb iPads.

  4. Upload your masterpiece to Apple. Then change one word: turn a “happy” into “glad.” Then publish that “revised” version everywhere else. Problem solved.

    1. Apple doesn’t own the content of books published to the store. Just the design of the book done in the editor. The author still owns all of the content and can reformat that content for as many lesser ebook sellers as they like.

  5. Mac users I meet cite Apple’s censorship as their #1 reason for dropping Apple products. This new iBooks policy does nothing but heavily reinforce that negative aspect of Apple.

    Apple has already shown an inability to stand up to small pressure groups (so-called “Family Values”), and exhibited a double standard by allowing major providers (Sport Illustrated) to peddle porn while removing independent Apps for far less, simply because they haven’t the pockets lo litigate against Apple. Apple refuses to allow P2P apps in any form, or any competing software like FireFox, claiming lame-ass excuses like “It could confuse the end user and dilute the iPhone experience”. They pulled Apps like Wobble, all because a small group of women complained young boys used them to snap pics and make boobies wiggle. They are nothing short of greedy, socio-puritan, and knee-jerk reactionary.

    Apple’s grip on music is bad enough, but tolerable in that they don’t currently censor musical content. Their control over Apps is unacceptable. Books should never be censored, period, even if it’s a copy of Hilter’s Mein Kampf. Until Apple openly declares a complete “Hands Off” I will never update to Lion, nor buy any new Apple wares, nor visit their online stores.

    1. I suspect that very few people share your viewpoint on Apple’s alleged “censorship.” To address just one of the serious flaws in your post, Apple is choosing whether or not to publish works that are submitted by authors to iBooks. That is *not* censorship. Those authors are free to publish their works in a number of other ways, using both online distribution and traditional hardcopies.

      If you stick with your pledge, then you will never update to Lion or buy any Apple products or visit any Apple Stores, because Apple is not going to change the fundamental aspects of their ecosystem for you. I certainly honor your right to make that decision. But I consider it to be your loss based on a somewhat skewed perspective on Apple.

    2. “Apple’s grip on music is bad enough, but tolerable in that they don’t currently censor musical content. ”
      What grip is that, exactly?
      Has iTunes Store suddenly become the only outlet for digital music downloads without anyone noticing?
      You, my friend, are completely nuts.

  6. MS Word equivalent is Pages, not iBook’s authoring tool. There is NO similar tool in the market. And like MS Word, Pages doesn’t limit the usage of your output, it just cheaper and better.

    1. All this means is that you’ll have to use iBooks Authoring tool if you want a fully interactive reading experience. No one is forcing anyone to make such a book. Nothing is stoping you from also formatting your book with other programs for a lesser reading experience in other ebook stores.

  7. … You think this agreement is a bad deal? First off, the software is free.
    Second, they make NO claims regarding the content. Yes, the output of the program is beholding to Apple – you can only give it away or share the profit with Apple – but you can copy the content out and paste it elsewhere with no concern for Apple. Apple doesn’t own it – not even if you “wrote” it using iBook Author.
    It’s in no way onerous. I’ve read the comments and critiques. They are simply wrong. They merely misunderstand what Apple is claiming to “own”. Easy enough to do, if you are a hater.

  8. Where Apple erred, I believe, is the fact that surely someone at the top recognized this would be a point of contention; one or two sentences as the end of the presentation would have been sufficient to limit the damage.

    “We chose to offer this software for free, and anyone can use it to author anything and give that away for free, but if they’re going to sell a book from the software, they have to sell it through us.”

    I think a fair bit of the criticism is because it caught people by surprise. Just be up front, Apple.

  9. As an educator, I stand back and wonder, what is Apple thinking?
    I have a lab of 30 good Apple computers (the only apple lab in my county) with Lion OSX, working great! I see and watch about all this great technology advanced software that I could apply, I’m elated! I Love my kids! I would be willing to create a book to teach with, for free! Anyone could use it!
    I’m sick of old out of date material with such a high price. But after having iMacs in the classroom, what good would an iPad do? Besides, there’s no money for that. You know, Apple first made the iPad with no camera, Even though the frame was ready for it. Apple, I’m getting tired of your out of date money marketing methods. On one hand you say your here to make things better for education, But only if you have one certain product? I talked my school system into buying your products for a better grasp of the technology world we live in. I just never dreamed that the company I put my vocation into would have such poor vision. Why would a company that has become one on the riches leaders of technology in our world today, become so cheap and controlling towards the have nots? I don’t see how Steve is going to get to rest in peace. This is such a shame. Is it really all for money?

    1. Hmm, well I’m thinking Apple wants to replace textbooks with iPads. What good is a textbook to a student if it’s stuck on a Mac in a lab? There are many other tools you can use to create lesson plans or what have you, that you can use on those Macs. Hell, you could even use iBooks Author to create PDF’s that can be used anywhere.

      Furthermore, who’s to say that Apple is not planning on releasing iBooks for Macs sometime in the near future?

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