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I’m Not Enraged By Apple’s iBook Author EULA–I Must Be Doing Something Wrong

Today’s iBook 2 rollout was obviously going to be greeted with lot of applause at another game changing move by Apple and a lot of hate at the method and exertion they use to change the game.  One surprise that came out of it is the outrage of developers who have read the iBook Author EULA. ZDNet’s article is titled “Apple’s mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement” to give you a sense of the fire being sprayed and it relies on the findings of an article titled “The Unprecedented Audacity of the iBooks Author EULA”.  What’s this all about? Well here’s the clauses in the iBooks Author EULA:

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.


B. Distribution of your Work. As a condition of this License and provided you are in compliance with its terms, your Work may be distributed as follows:
(i) if your Work is provided for free (at no charge), you may distribute the Work by any available means;
(ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.

There’s a few different attacks taken against this. The best attacks the ramifications of this passage. They correctly note that Apple has rights to the iBook that you produce using their iBook Author software. In other words, if you make an iBook using their software and wish to sell it then you can only sell it through Apple (and give them their cut). To be clear though, the content is still 100% the authors. You can take that same exact content and drop it into any other ebook authoring application even if you have an iBook. In fact, you can make an identical ebook provided that you don’t use the iBook Author software even if you also have an iBook Author version. It’s the output file that they have rights to. ZDnet notes “Imagine if Microsoft said you had to pay them 30% of your speaking fees if you used a PowerPoint deck in a speech.” Similarly Venemous Porridge states “It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. “ Well yeah but we all see the difference here, right? Both PowerPoint and Photoshop are applications you pay for up front and then the resulting output is yours. The iBook Author software is free but you pay on the back end. Simply a different revenue model and maybe one that people don’t like but I’m not blown away by this. In fact the push back for their pricing scheme may ultimately play well for the industry. They just reestablished a profitable niche market and over the next few years there will be lots of new eTextbook software authoring tools out there and expect Google, Adobe and Microsoft to release their versions as well. Of course, those versions will likely rely on a standard format (like epub) as the output but on the other hand the software will probably be priced like PowerPoint, Word and Photoshop – expensive. Some give, some take and the markets continue.

Clearly there’s not too much actual outrage here as a lot of large textbook publishers have already signed on to this so they expect  to give Apple their share and if they want to release these books for other platforms they’ll re-author the books for the other platforms, which is similar to what you have to do to port a game from iOS to Android (but actually far simpler in terms of eBooks).

Anyway, the critics are also noting that the EULA says that Apple can  choose to not select your work for distribution. Blah. Really they’re using that to make sure that if something reprehensible is published they have discretion but if they start to use their market to choose what students learn expect an antitrust hearing to follow in short order. That’s not the purpose of this.

Bottom line for me is that I think this is all overhyped anger and if you’re that opposed to it, then don’t use their tools. I’m an Apple hater more than you are but when the blogosphere starts to attack first and ask questions later then none of us win.