Stop Hyperventilating Over iBooks Author

by Rich on January 26, 2012

I think everyone is seriously overreacting to the iBooks Author EULA. I don’t particularly like the EULA. I think it’s overly restrictive. But I also think everyone is focusing on the wrong part.

There’s no disagreement about the terms surrounding “Distribution of your Work”. It all hinges on what is “The Work”.

If you’re talking about selling a rich multimedia immersive super whiz-bang text book that takes advantage of all of iBooks Author’s magic, you must sell it through iBookstore. This isn’t (only) because of the EULA. It’s because your book is only viewable inside iBooks. You can’t play it on a Kindle, a Nook, an Fire, or anything else. It’s an Apple proprietary format in exactly the same way that mobi is an Amazon proprietary format. Except for Amazon, it’s proprietary solely for the sake of control. For Apple, .ibooks has unique features impossible in ePub3. So what’s the problem?

If you write the great American novel, or the great Victorian bodice-ripper, or the great vampire/werewolf/zombie death match chronicles, and you produce a .ibooks file with iBA, you must sell that in iBookstore.

But “The Work” is not your copyrighted text. “The Work” is your finished iBooks product (which, for technical reasons, is only usable in iBooks). You can paste your text into Pages, export an ePub2, and sell it on Barnes and Noble, save a .doc and upload it to Smashwords. Sell a PDF on your website to your heart’s content.

Does anyone really believe Apple is going to stop people from doing that? Do they continue to believe it if their tinfoil hats are on correctly?

Apple’s EULA is clumsy in not making that adequately clear, and I strongly believe they will update it to reflect that, but I don’t believe they’re claiming control of your text. They’re claiming distribution control of the finished product produced using a remarkably advanced tool they’ve made available for free which is only usable in their marketplace anyway. If you don’t like that because you want the same product everywhere, make an ePub (still the default format for iBookstore) yourself. You can do it in Pages with just a couple of clicks.

Honestly, just breathe into a paper bag for a minute. You’ll feel better.

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