Thursday, January 19, 2012

iBooks Author is beautiful but you can only use it to sell through Apple iBookstore

The license agreement to Apple's new iBooks Author tool for creating electronic textbooks has a very peculiar clause:

If you charge a fee for any book or other work you generate using this software (a “Work”), you may only sell or distribute such Work through Apple (e.g., through the iBookstore) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple.

I find that clause unacceptable and ridiculous. If I create a book, I want to be able to sell it anywhere I want, not only through Apple. I no more want to restrict my sales to their store than I want to restrict them on Amazon or anywhere else.

Frankly, I even find it insulting.

You can find the full license agreement by going to the iBooks Author menu, choose About iBooks Author, and then click License Agreement in the About box that appears.

Note that it didn't have to be this way. The files that iBooks Author creates are pretty reasonable EPUB files (masked with the .ibooks extension) and can be read in NOOK and other EPUB readers. You can unzip them and see the EPUB files inside.

I am very disappointed.


  1. Not only that, Liz... the application is STILL. MAC. ONLY.


    1. Tell me, do you complain when Microsoft or other companies make applications that only run on Windows?

      Apple is in the business of selling Macs, if you hadn't noticed.

    2. If the point of the software is make it easier for people to create textbooks --- which is what they're telling us --- then I think it's stupid for them to limit the software's use to the Apple ecosystem. Their aim sounds very small-d democratic and it's one that's easy to support.

      The implementation, however, is something far different. Contrary to what Apple and Mac users want to believe, there's a significant number of content producers who could be adding to iBooks but are effectively shut out. Seems strange that a company that wants us to believe that this new software and the content it aims to attract would act counter to that end... unless, of course, the aim was something different. This was my chief complaint with iTunes Producer, as well.

      Honestly, I have no beef with Apple wanting to sell more of their products. I own several of them myself and think they're, on the whole, pretty great. But I'd rather have them dispense with the pretense that iBooks Author is about the future of textbooks and a vision for education.

  2. It's funny, because the iBooks Author help file says this: "You can distribute your completed book yourself, or you can request to publish through the iBookstore and make it available to the public. You can also export your book in a variety of formats."

    They don't specify that if you want to distribute your completed book yourself you'll have to do it for free and not charge for it; seems like they need to make that a little more clear.

  3. I agree that Apple appears to be making a land grab for iBooks here but, on the positive side, we can still create good stuff with InDesign :)

  4. Glad I found your blog. Lots of good tips on ebook inside technical things here.

  5. What if I tweak the 'work' generated by Author with some other tools and workflows (such as to improve markup)? At what point does it become something Author didn't generate and that I'm free to do what I want with?

    Ridiculous, but given Apple's penchant for litigation, something to take into account.

  6. Liz - Do you know (or does anybody know) if you can specify page size in iBooks Author? It doesn't seem to offer that option, which makes it unusable for print.

    I would like to use it because it's easy and looks pretty nice, but will use InDesign if I have to. InDesign isn't at all intuitive with pictures - Illustrator is much better with this but Illustrator has no way to regulate layout across many artboards.

  7. Keep in mind that the 'only through Apple' publish-for-profit clause is in their software license. That only impacts what you can do with that app. It doesn't and can't apply to what you do with that same text elsewhere.

    It's like other licenses generated by corporate lawyers. They're only concerned with getting advantages for themselves. Kinder lawyers or any agreement negotiated by both parties would make clear that Apple has no claim to your content, just the particular coding of it created by iBooks Author. They want to recoup their investment in an app they're giving away for free.

    And I might add, smarter lawyers would have also made this clear in the license. There's going to be a fuss over these terms and not every author will understand what I've described above. Apple won't get some books it otherwise would have gotten.

    My suggestion would be to write in either the Mac or Windows version of Scrivener. When in comes time to publish, use the very powerful Compile function in Scrivener to create all the versions you need:

    For Amazon, use compile for Kindle. It uses Amazon's own compiler and Scrivener gives you powerful control over what is or is not exported..

    For other ebook distributors, use Scriverner's compile to export a Word version. Then 'insert' (Apple's term) that Word document into iBooks Author to create the start of an iBooks version. Use their tools to improve its appearance and send it to Apple. You should also be able to use Smashwords or other tools to convert that same Word document for other ebook vendors.

    That means that your source for all these versions isn't iBooks Author but Scrivener to Word format. You'll be legally safe with that.

    And finally, and this is the miserable part, you can Place that Word document into InDesign and, after a lot of cleanup, create a very attractive print version.

    The one hitch with this workflow is that if you find a typo after you compile the text out of Scrivener, you'll need to tweak that text several places.

    --Michael W. Perry, Untangling Tolkien

  8. I use eCub. It works just fine -- and even produces a mobi version from the ePub file so that I have something that runs on my Fire. eCub gives a nice, friendly front end to both ePubCheck and Kindlegen -- making all that fuss about using Terminal moot - yeah!

  9. Interesting what is called 'Work'. I've used Sigil (EPUB editor) to edit .epub ebooks. If I take a .ibook I've produced with iBooks Author and edit it with Sigil (adding more content, for example) and produce a new .epub, is it still the same 'Work'?

  10. iBooks Author is specific to iBooks 2 on the iPad and only becomes essential when you take advantage of features that are unique to iBooks 2 on iPad. If you want to get paid for your writing AND use these cool features you'll need to resign yourself to hand coding. Otherwise, you are legally and morally at risk.
    That said, there's nothing to prevent you from learning all about how to hand code this stuff by studying the output of iBooks Publisher.
    Another alternative is to wait a little while for someone to code up an app that does the same thing.
    Yet another alternative is to stick with Sigil (free), iCab or inDesign. How much does inDesign cost?

  11. What's the problem?

    It's not like iBooks author is forced upon you by apple - All the other pre-existing ways of creating epub files are all still in existence and there's no reason you can't continue to use them.

    Apple could have charged $500 for iBooks author, but it's completely free. It seems reasonable to me that they would want you to sell your content through their store if you've taken advantage of their great free tooling....

  12. If you don't want to be restricted to selling through iBooks then use different software to make your book....

  13. It´s not a app, it´s a little soldier ready for war with Amazon. This is a titan´s meal, in which we get the leftovers: restrictions, frangmentation, small cuts, crumbs, crumbs and more crumbs. Crumbs for the sheeps we are...

  14. So, does this mean that Apple will own my content? I mean, can I publish an enhanced version through iBook Author and then take the simple ebook generated elsewhere and sell it on Amazon?

  15. Freedom fighter from SwedenJanuary 20, 2012 at 3:30 AM

    The important question is - How can we crack open the .ibooks file, and tweak it so it's compatible and validates as an .epub?

    Let the Apple fanboys live in their bubble, and let us normal developers try to get our food on the table - without being ibooks-producing slaves.

    1. It appears to me that you are very jealous about the Apple fanboys (whatever that may be) have a great tool to easily produce ebooks. If you want to “crack open” the iBook Author’s output to use it otherwise you are not a “freedom fighter” but are calling others for criminal action. Cracking open software is a circumvention of a copy protection and that is illegal in the EU and other civilized countries in the world. And I thought Sweden is one of them. Even calling someone to perform this act is criminal by EU legislation. So please get your emotions over a product that you don’t want to use anyway (because you are not part of the Apple Bubble) under control or you can get this blog into trouble.
      As a normal developer you have plenty of choices of other software that bring your food on the table. InDesign has plenty of more capabilities than iBook Author. So no need to get excited to the point to become abusive.
      For my part, I will explore the iBook Author since InDesign is far too expensive and too complicated for my personal needs.

    2. Freedom fighter from SwedenJanuary 21, 2012 at 9:35 AM

      Yes, start explore the iBook Author, and you might even discover that the output is a zipped folder...

      And when you one day become a professional, you might have second thoughts about the EULA, and realise how it limits your options and business.

  16. I don''t think you should be insulted.

    Just don't use the app if you don't want to.

    It's free a point of use and Apple have chosen to recover their costs by sales. That business model is nothing new.

    Apple don't want to and won't own your content. You can create your eBook with other software if you want to distribute (or even charge for it) elsewhere.

    If you want to use Apple's FREE software then you have to either give your content away for FREE too, or sell it via Apple's online store.

    That all seems very reasonable to us here. Where is the insult?

  17. Freedom fighter from SwedenJanuary 20, 2012 at 7:04 AM

    To me it is like Monopoly Capitalism. Your are FREE to do nothing, but FREEDOM is to do what you want to do (with your own content). That seems very logical to us here.

  18. I don't have a problem with the restrictions and I'm thrilled that Apple has provided such an advanced publishing tool.

    Perhaps this will nudge (via a firm kick) Adobe to do the same (produce an advanced WYSIWYG editor for multiple devices), and also push Amazon and B&N to upgrade their devices to iPad-level functionality and provide really useful design and publishing tools.

    Apple has once again set the bar, which will drive competitors to also give us the tools we desire and need.

    So I gladly accept the restriction that I can only sell the finished product via the Apple Store. At least for now. In the months to come, Apple may be pressured to ease that restriction, or else new publishing tools will appear that allow us to easily move our Apple projects to other platforms, modifying the code so as to nullify the restriction.

  19. > but FREEDOM is to do what you want to do

    That doesn't include stealing. Don't use Apple's FREE tool if you don't want to, but if you do you have to accept their terms, not what terms you think are correct but the terms justly set by the creator of the software. Freedom to do what you want to do is simply anarchy. We will happily accept Apple's terms, and try to make lots of money in the process.

    If anyone isn't happy with iBooks Author then they are free to create their own eBook publishing software and make it free from any restrictions. These things cost money to make. Apple is right to take its share.

  20. Freedom fighter from SwedenJanuary 20, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    > That doesn't include stealing.

    Nope, you are right on that, and that's why I want to have the full rights to my own product and content. And I will advocate for it, for sure.

  21. Freedom fighter from SwedenJanuary 20, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    When reading this new iBooks Author license agreement it reminds me of the record labels' controversial "360 deals", where a record label receive a percentage of ALL future activities. They even have a stake in the artist's personality! I honestly think that Apple lawyers have Started Their Photocopiers...

  22. Apple will be Apple will always be Apple!! That's why when I had to make the choice WAY back between Apple II and Amiga I chose Amiga.

    PROUD owner of Straight to the Point

    Which got me started

  23. Dear Liz,

    Like you (and others) I've been hacking my way through to a frugal means of making interactive fixed layouts for all platforms a while now. As a small publisher with access to global sales channels on all major ebook platforms it's been an annoying road. One step forward, two steps back, wash, rinse, repeat.

    I find all the big and mid-sized players in the game less than appealing. Adobe needs a PhD to use (and thousands to buy/publish). Many of the "middleman" conversion services are merely milking the technical learning curve for their own bank accounts. And now Apple comes in attempting to squash and control via dangling golden carrot. Here's my middle finger to them all...

    The plan was to make ebooks with a basic WYSIWYG epub creator that supports audio. Tweek the code a bit in an editor, then upload/convert for the iBookstore, Amazon, NOOK, and Android ebook stores. Then "repackage" it with a few more bells and whistles as an "app" for the app markets as well. After looking Author over, and finding Apple's content control issues trying to limit my content and marketing, that's still the plan. I won't be slapped in the face by Apple as the price of doing business with them.

    So, like you, I won't be using "Author" (with it's perverted "for the children" frame and content control issues) for anything at all. Did I mention I'm a teacher as well...?

    To those saying "just re-create using different tools for the other players"... enjoy Apple pulling your iBooks when you do. It's not even clear whether they'll do so based on ISBN numbers or merely "similiar content"...

    Make no mistake, they'll happily do so by sending a nice little "contract violation" notice to you. Your only response option will need to come through a heavily priced lawyer. I'm not risking that just to use their little "dangling golden carrot".

    BTW are people seriously trying to compare mega-publishing corp's negotiated deals with the contracts the rest of us are being slapped into? That's either naive or sad.

  24. Has anyone tried importing an ePub file into Author? I know there isn't a button 'import from ePub', but is it possible to:
    a) create an ePub file through other means
    b) change filename to .ibooks
    c) import and embellish in Author

    Sell the output of c) and the file in a) through separate stores without violating any license agreements?

  25. @Alan

    Not possible. iBooks Author only generates .ibooks files, it can't edit or even open them. It deals only with .iba files.

    1. To the last reply:
      I don't have a mac,but surely a Copy-And-Paste would do the job?
      I am sure they exist!

  26. @Tony, we are not talking about Windows right? Post your comment relevant to a topic then perhaps we can discuss about how greedy corporations are, however.


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