Considering iBooks Author For Your Next Book Project

Matt Gemmell has put together a nice overview of what it’ll be like to work with Apple’s new authoring tool. To sum up: you can sell iBooks only through the iBookstore with a maximum price of $14.99, but you can also give them away for free elsewhere. iBooks 2.0 is required, as well as an iPad. iBooks Author is Mac-only and it doesn’t have any collaborative features yet.

But here’s the most important part, which I think Apple could have explained a little better: iBooks Author-created book files can be sold through iBookstore and Apple takes a 30% cut. iBooks Author-created files can be given away elsewhere, for free. Content from an iBooks Author file (read: your actual text and images) can be-repackaged in another authoring environment. Lex Friedman pointed out in a Twitter conversation that the model is similar to apps but misguided because apps can’t be given away for free, whereas iBooks when sold must go through Apple’s Store. Again, we’ll see how authors will respond in the next months.

Also keep in mind this observation from Gemmell:

Naturally, once your text is in iBooks Author, you’re essentially writing and editing within a page-layout application, rather than a word processor or text editor. As with any publishing workflow, you will want to do the writing and editing first, and then put the book together (as much as possible). iBooks Author is resolutely not a writing environment.

Question now remains as to whether the iBooks Author EULA is something that will stick around, will be clarified, or if it’s simply the work of an overzealous lawyer. Dan Wineman writes:

In other words: Apple is trying to enforce a rule that whatever I create with this application, if I sell it, I have to give them a cut. And iBooks Author is free, so this arrangement sounds pretty reasonable.

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When I make something myself, no matter what software I use to make it, then — assuming it doesn’t infringe any copyrights — it’s my right to distribute it however I want, in whatever format I choose, for free or not. I don’t lose the right to publish my novel if Microsoft determines that I wrote it using a pirated copy of Word. Would I lose that right if I tried to sell my iBook outside of the iBookstore and Apple got wind of it? I don’t know; we’re in uncharted waters here. Or how about this: for a moment I’ll stipulate that Apple’s EULA is valid and I’ve agreed to it implicitly by using the software. Now suppose I create an iBook and give it to someone else who has never downloaded iBooks Author and is not party to the EULA, and that person sells it on their own website. What happens now?

Hopefully an online turmoil will force Apple to clarify this.