The Answer Is in the Name

Today Apple held their much-anticipated education announcement at the Guggenheim museum in New York. As you are probably aware, Apple announced three new products during the event: iBooks 2, iTunesU.app and iBooks Author. I’m not going to go into any deep analysis of the event. It’s been so long since I was even vaguely involved with the education market that I really can’t muster up any deep insight into Apple’s initiatives. As usual, though, the reaction to Apple’s announcements by the blogoratti does provide a rich and fertile ground of annoying stupidity which we can harvest.

One emerging theme annoys me in particular: the idea that Apple is exerting Draconian control over how you can sell content produced with iBooks Author.

The story goes like this. When you attempt to export your work from iBooks Author a dialog appears stating:

Note: Books can only be sold through the iBookstore. To publish your book on the iBookstore, choose File > Publish.

This is reinforced by language within the end-user license agreement (EULA) that reads:


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.

This, of course has raised the hackles of the punditocracy. The restriction is being called “unprecedented”, “audacious” and DRACONIAN. John Gruber even goes so far as to call it “…Apple at it’s worst.” People are shouting, “How dare Apple tell me what I can and can’t do with software I bought1? No one else does this.”

The thing is, I’m fairly certain that those people didn’t see the same announcement that I did.

I’m going back over the live-blogs of the event, and looking on Apple’s iBooks Author product page and for the life of me I can’t find where Apple is positioning this product as a generic ePub editor. In fact, from what I gather from people who have done the research, the iBookstore format, while based on ePub, diverges pretty strongly from the standard.

The bottom line is, the answer is in the name—iBooks Author, not ePub Author, or Pages 2012. As much as people would like to think that iBooks Author is a general purpose book publishing tool, Apple clearly thinks otherwise.

I can sympathise with the frustration. I’ve been noodling on an article with the thesis that Apple needs to step up and provide both a professional level ePub authoring tool as well as a professional grade application for producing better Newsstand apps. But iBooks Author is obviously not that particular hippogriff. I honestly don’t find it unreasonable for Apple to expect that paid content produced within it’s free tool (designed and marketed as a tool to work with one specific storefront) should be sold via official channels. Hell, I’m actually amazed that Apple is putting no restrictions on unpaid content. You can export ibooks format files and scatter them to the four winds for all they care. Just as long as you don’t get any dosh for them.

Once again, the tech press and pundits would do much better if they would actually pay attention to what Apple announces instead of the announcement that they make up in their heads.

  1. iBooks Author is free.