iBooks Author Round-Up

Are you already tired of reading about Apple’s new publishing platforms? Me, too. But the Silicon Valley Gods have spoken, and we must all pay homage:

So if this is a revolutionary announcement about reshaping textbooks and educational content, we must ask revolutionary for whom? For wealthy schools? For students who have iPads at home and parents willing to pay out of pocket for supplementary textbook materials? For publishers?

Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. 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. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented. I’m sure it’s commonplace with enterprise software, but the difference is that those contracts are negotiated by corporate legal departments and signed the old-fashioned way, with pen and ink and penalties and termination clauses. A by-using-you-agree-to license that oh by the way asserts rights over a file format? Unheard of, in my experience.

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?

Okay, some maybe no one here is really paying homage. But every is talking about it today. Frankly, for I don’t see any real benefit to this software right now for most academic publishers, even ones who do textbooks. You’re limiting yourself to one platform, and the software doesn’t really provide much in the way of workflow-support (you can import from Word, and it does carry over styles when doing so, but forget it if you use inDesign or any other desktop publishing software).

More to come on the new iTunes U, once I’ve had time to check it out.

UPDATE: Another good one from Liz Castro: Ten reasons I can’t recommend or use iBooks Author.

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