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How Publishers Really Win With iBooks

From Ars:

… e-book publishing experts have concerns about the formatting that iBooks Author can output, which isn’t fully ePub 2 or ePub 3 compliant. Furthermore, Apple has added a clause to iBooks Author’s end user license agreement that prohibits selling e-books created with iBooks Author anywhere but the iBookstore.

“The offending language in the iBooks Author EULA is a condition on the use of the software, sort of disguised as a condition on the use of the books that are created,” Brown said. “Imagining how this might play out in a dispute reveals the nuance. Say a user makes her iBooks Author created work available for sale through some non-Apple platform. Would Apple sue, claiming that that book is infringing? Of course not—it would lose that lawsuit big time. Instead, Apple would claim that the use of iBooks Author to create that work violated this condition of the EULA, thus was beyond the scope of the EULA, and thus was infringement. Any lawsuit would be for infringement of the software, not of the book.”

On first glance, the new iBooks Author application looks really interesting. I’m incredibly impressed with it’s general ease of use and the capability to make works created through the application available to anyone using an iDevice. Unfortunately, I’m unwilling to produce works for a platform or publisher that so dramatically limits the scope of my potential audience. The licensing requirements mean that only freely available works can be made available in multiple domains, and inability to export to ePub (and expect it to work) means that I’d effectively be creating locked-in text for a hyper-small audience.

As an author, Apple is punishing me. Hell, if I were a content publisher (in the large commercial sense) that gave a damn about content accessibility I’d run for the hills.(Yeah, I know, there really aren’t many of those!)

The public shouldn’t regard the fact that major publishing houses have partnered with Apple as indicating any interest whatsoever in ‘democratizing’ education. No, what is really happening is a clever end-run around democratizing education. You see, by adopting Apple’s environment and charging for works, publishing houses are creating new license-based reasons to rebuff those who want publishers’ texts in standards-compliant, multiple-device accessible, formats. In effect, the publishers have single-handedly stepped into Apple’s reality distortion field to appear to be ‘reshaping education’ while actually locking out efforts to truly democratize textbooks.

Well played textbook publishers. Well played.