Pulling out of iBooks?

This post is a reaction to reading Holly Lisle’s recent article: The Apple iBooks Author Issue: Small things, and large principles in which she talks about a clause in the user agreements for the iBooks Author program. I encourage you to hop over and check out her article, and the article she links to which gives a bit more explanation about the clause. I’m always grateful for people who can explain these agreements in ways that don’t make you want to spork your eyeballs out.

Now, I’m just hoping I get this right because these things are confusing to me, so be nice. But what I gather is that Holly’s pissed because the iBooks user agreement says that if you use iBooks to create an ebook (and I believe you must use it to get into the iBookstore without a third party like Smashwords), and that book is rejected by the iBookstore, you can’t take that copy of your work and sell it elsewhere.

To be clear, Apple’s not saying it owns the intellectual content of the book, but it owns the format produced by its software enough to have a say in what you can do it with it.

And that’s shitty and wrong for all the reasons mentioned in the two articles mentioned above, and if adopted by others spells out DOOM and virtual apocalypse and the end of the Life As We Know It, etc.

But it is a shock?

No. This is Apple! Have I created ebooks using iBooks Author? No. Because it’s Mac-only software. As far as I know, I cannot put books directly into the iBookstore as I can the Kindle, NOOK, or Smashwords stores because I don’t own a Mac, so I can’t run the software which is the exclusive way to get in there. If I want to put my book there myself, I’m expected to buy (and learn!) a whole new computer system.

I don’t like Apple’s exclusivity. I don’t deny that they have a right to be as exclusive as they wanna be (and that other companies have the right to to do things like make mobile versions of digital comics only available to Apple devices). I don’t have to like it. And I don’t have to give in, get an Apple device and set myself up to do more business with Apple (or the few cell phone providers who can support the device) for the life of the device. And I don’t have to buy the products of companies which can’t get a move on and release their products for the devices I will buy.

That’s my protest. That’s between me and Apple. In the last few years at my house that’s included a couple laptops, a couple MP3 players, an ereader, a tablet, and a smartphone. I like to adopt early. It’s hard to keep up and it seems to make things easier. But I’ll get behind on some tech rather than bind myself up in exclusivity battles. (Did I buy a Kindle? No. I waited until my Sony Reader was wretchedly behind the times and then I bought a NOOK Color and rooted it so it could use the Kindle app so I could shop where I wanna shop.)

I totally admire what Holly says here:

And there is no number of people affected that is insignificant. The smallest minority is the individual, and minority rights protect the rights of the individual because those are the only rights there are.

I would agree with that. Don’t use the software. I hope Holly chooses to find another way into the iBookstore because this is where our opinions diverge.

Apple may lose some revenue from the loss of Holly and perhaps of others who follow her lead. But also at a loss for the content they want are the fans who have already invested in Apple’s devices. Pulling content from the marketplace that serves that segment of her fan base puts those fans in the crossfire of her dispute with Apple. (Just like pulling content from NOOK to make it exclusive to Kindle in KDP Select is a smack to a segment of fans). And I’m not iHater enough to say that’s what they deserve for investing in Apple devices. (Of course you’d think they’d be able to purchase content at other places and sideload it if necessary, but we know that’s beyond the technical capabilities of some, and, at any rate, I feel like my job is to think of the people who actually support my work whenever I can.)

The whole thing to me is like… I don’t know. I guess it feels like you marry a jealous, possessive, controlling man because he drives a stylish automobile, knows the latest hot spots, and comes in fashion colors, and then suddenly you’re surprised when he wants to start telling you what to do? If a guy starts slinging a lot of proprietary formats in your general direction, take the hint about what kind of relationship this is going to be and shop elsewhere.

I’m not trying to rag on those of you who own and love your Apple devices for all the reasons you own and love them. There IS a lot to love. And I AM frequently jealous of you while I’m sitting on the outside looking in at your app store. I’m sure your OS is as elegant as you say it is and whatever else. But that relationship is not for me, and this is the kind of thing that reaffirms my stance on buying Apple goods.

But as much as it does, I don’t think pulling out of that marketplace entirely is right answer to this event. What about you guys? Anyone else inspired to pull out of the iBookstore because of the iBooks Author license agreement? Do you plan to just dump the software and get back in through Smashwords, or boycott the store entirely? For those who shop the iBookstore, will this be a problem for you? Would you shop elsewhere for your favorites?


Filed under self-publishing

10 responses to “Pulling out of iBooks?

  1. Susan, it’s my understanding (and I could be wrong) that this is only an issue if you use the new IBook Author software to create your book, not if you just upload it there. Smashwords apparently has a clause that you can’t use the versions they grind anywhere else. I could be wrong, but that’s my understanding from what’s being said on KB etc.

  2. You don’t have to use iBooks Author to upload to the iBookstore without Smashwords. The iBooks Author software is just a simple way to make an ebook file. If you’ve looked at the software, it is geared towards textbook publishers. All the templates look like textbooks.

    The file you create with it is an ibooks file, so it can’t be read by any other program. You’re not creating an epub. So even if Apple didn’t have that clause, you still wouldn’t be able to do anything else with the file anyway. There is an option to export to pdf, though, but if you’re going to be selling it to people for use on an ereader you would have to convert it to an epub and you would lose all the beautiful formatting anyway. (I know ereaders can technically read pdfs, but from my experience it’s not very practical.)

    This is no different than the Smashwords Meatgrinder. In the Smashwords terms it very clearly spells out that you can’t take the files that their proprietary Meatgrinder software spits out and sell it elsewhere. How is that different? I don’t see a huge firestorm over that.

    iBooks Author is proprietary software that spits out a proprietary format of a book. To complain that you can’t use it elsewhere is akin to complaining that you can’t sell your Amazon mobi or azw file on Barnes and Noble. Apple’s not saying you have to sell it, you can give it away for free any way you want. But if you want to sell it, you have to sell it through them, not just because they say so, but because it’s the only platform that supports the format. And like Smashwords, since you used their proprietary software to create the file, you’re going to sell it through them because you’re using their software–that they spent time and money to produce–for free.

    • Thanks for replying, Caethes. I’ve yet to figure out how to upload to the iBookstore without a Mac. The first I was aware that individuals even could do so was from reading a single article which made it seems like it could only be done with a Mac. But at that point I gave up the idea and didn’t investigate further.

      One reason it would be nice to have the ability to create a file in that format is that there are some who would like to sell their own books. I have been using a service to facilitate the selling of digital files (sewing patterns) for the last few years. A number of times, Kait and I have toyed with the idea of putting together multiformat ebook bundles and giving readers the option of buying, more or less, directly from us. I haven’t gone farther with it because, a) I don’t have the pull at this point in my career to make a worthwhile endeavor, b) I don’t think the ebook consumer market is at a point where a lot of consumers are savvy enough or interested in sideloading ebooks to their devices, and c) I would only be cannibalizing rankings from other places, which is visibility I’m still pretty dependent on to find new readers. But it’s something I might do someday, and it’s a use for that file type outside of that particular marketplace.

      I can see the similarities to the Meatgrinder, but I also see what Holly’s saying about it being like Microsoft telling us what we could and couldn’t do with a Powerpoint.

  3. You do have to have a Mac to upload without Smashwords, just not the iBooks Author software with that EULA. I had been hoping that this “big event” Apple had would be to a) make it possible to upload without a Mac (even though Mac’s all I use, I think it’s a ridiculous requirement) and b) eliminate the ISBN requirement. Those two things would make a huge difference for independent authors and publishers.

    The problem with comparing this situation to Microsoft is that you pay for Powerpoint. iBooks Author is a free software that is provided for free precisely because they plan to make their money from people selling the resulting ibook files. That’s the business model they have chosen to use. It’s a free tool to help facilitate people using their platform, just like the Meatgrinder is a free tool to facilitate the use of the Smashwords platform.

    While I understand that you may want to sell directly from your site one day, this whole issue doesn’t affect that at all. You can still sell epubs (the format Apple uses) directly from your site. So why do you have a need to create a book in the .ibooks format? Why do your customers need the file in a format that can be read and edited by iBooks Author? They’re not locking you out of selling to Apple customers using their native iPad format: epub.

    I guess I just don’t understand demanding that Apple not make any money from the software they created. Maybe someday some freeware developers will get together and develop something similar that can spit out the end result into any file format you want. Or maybe a regular software company will make something that does the same thing and charge us for it. I would suspect, though, that it would be very expensive, comparable to the Adobe line of creative products. Any of those options would be great, but no one is stepping up to the plate.

    The uproar about this all over the Internet just feels very Chicken Little. A company released a free product to help users use another one of their products. It was a baby step (more like one of those wobbling baby falls that a new parent tries to convince you was actually a step) in the right direction toward making things easier. Apple is not demanding exclusivity in any way, they just don’t want you using their free software for your monetary gain. If you’re going to make money off the file, why shouldn’t they too? You couldn’t have made it without them.

    • Thanks again, Caethes. You’ve clarified a number of things for me (like what format iPad reads. I looked it up when it came out and no one seemed to even CARE; I gave up and never went back to researching it later).

  4. If anyone’s following, you might be interested to know that Holly’s opinion on the matter has changed. She talks about it here.

  5. Hi Susan! So sorry to be late to the party! I know, it’s rude. But better late than never, eh?

    ‘The whole thing to me is like… I don’t know. I guess it feels like you marry a jealous, possessive, controlling man because he drives a stylish automobile, knows the latest hot spots, and comes in fashion colors, and then suddenly you’re surprised when he wants to start telling you what to do? If a guy starts slinging a lot of proprietary formats in your general direction, take the hint about what kind of relationship this is going to be and shop elsewhere.”

    Susan, I couldn’t have said it any better! Hello! I would run, not walk away from this whole thing. Bravo!

    I wanted to stop by your post today and meet you since we were in Kristen’s class together and well, I’m just now getting out of my small circle to spread my wings and meet and support others like yourself. U Loved this post. I think your views were spot on. Nice to meet you. Hope to see you soon! 🙂

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