iBooks and all that

I seem from the posting of several others (including Akma) that Apple have something new on offer.

It is a new piece of software iBooks Author which allows people to construct what they are inevitably calling iBooks  very easily, that can be read on portable devices.

I ought to be excited – it sounds like a great tool. Immediately it makes me think about how to publish things for the Episcopal Church – the monthly mag inspires, teaching texts and all kinds of other things. However, I’m feeling particularly underwhelmed.

Seems that you’ll need to be using Apple hardware to author the iBook, Apple software to produce it and Apple hardware to read it. It is about as closed source as it is possible to be. Seems to be exactly the kind of thing which makes people divide over Apple. Oh look, some will say, look at the shiny, easy interface. Loveliness of design, ease of use. Hurrah.

Yet others, myself included, see all of that alongside a rather cynical pitch for taking control of a whole genre.

Closed source. Proprietary. Biased towards the rich west.

I never hear people taking about DRM issues (Digital Rights Management) as justice issues within the church. However, I suspect that they inevitably will become part of our justice discourse. Sooner, I hope, than later.

Along the way, I did think that there were some interesting ideas in Nick Knisely’s post about this – particularly from an American perspective, thinking about Cathedrals as local seminary branches.

I hope to be going across the Atlantic some time this year to look at Cathedral (and other beacon church) initiatives and that notion has certainly sparked my interest.



  1. (…and then you can only sell it via their “iBookstore”, too… As if the hardware wasn’t playing me up atm, this is yet more incentive to click `buy now’ on a certain non-apple ebay item…)

  2. Brother David says

    It is sad to me how much this reads like an Apple hater piece and misses the mark on what Apple has done.

    Yes it is an ecosystem (closed source), what was introduced is an expansion of what Apple has already had in place. Yes it is proprietary, Apple created it to work on their hardware. Their hardware is also part of a larger ecosystem. And yes it is biased to the West. Apple has created it in the first place to assist in the education of the nation in which it was founded and thrives, the USA. It is an Apple attempt to offer something more in education to assist US students to get better educations, something that has been a part of Apple’s DNA from the beginning, with the first Apple IIs in US schools.

    Disclaimer – I have used Apple computers since the advent of the Macintosh. I bought my first one to write my seminary papers in the Fall of 1984 while a student at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, USA. I have had only Macs since then as well, along with various other Apple products; printers, cameras, modem/routers, iOS devices, etc. I am instrumental in selling Apple computers to my clients. I also own a considerable portion of Apple stock.

    • Thanks for your comment, Brother David. It has been a while. Good to hear from you again.

      I was struck by Akma’s comment that the iBooks data format issues would play to the Apple haters.

      In many ways it isn’t hatred that I feel towards Apple but jealousy. I love what they do technically. I just don’t like the business models.

      I’d hope that the iBooks authoring tool will prompt other big players to play. Would be good if google did their thing and produced something similar which would allow whatever is created to be read across different hardware formats.

      Like Akma, I think I’d happily pay for the tool. It is the hardware dependence for the reader which I struggle with. That and the way that some seemed to hail this with almost religious devotion. Those with the faith don’t understand those of us who don’t have the faith.

      As ever, I guess.

      Disclaimer: I have an iPod.

  3. Brother David says

    Akma misunderstands the purpose of the releases last week. She has her hidden agenda of what Apple should or should not do and when they fail her expectation then yes, she will bad mouth them about it. But that does not set her as any authority on the issue.

    Apples business models are based on a history of having been chinged over by much larger companies in the past, one being MicroSoft, another Adobe and most recently Google. The heart of Apple’s releases is the iTunes U app. The new iBooks Author is an authoring tool directed at the folks who wish to place educational content in the iTunes U store. It is also directed at retail textbook publishers who wish to sell their textbooks in the iBookstore. The app is free to facilitate both of those users. It is not free so that someone who disrespects Apple can use Apple’s app to develop a high production standard book and then sell their book on some other distribution stream. The iBook Author app also works hand-in-glove with other multimedia software in the Apple ecosystem, such as the iWork and iLife apps.

    I have downloaded the iBooks Author app, but I have yet to explore it. If it is like many other of Apple’s apps, it may rely only on the integrity of the individual as to whether you could actually create a book and sell it in another venue. That has yet to be tested I think.

  4. Brother David says

    Apple Clarifies iBooks Author Licensing Situation in New Software Update

    “Some confusion had resulted from Apple’s language, with some believing that Apple was claiming rights to all content used in the production of the iBooks Textbooks, perhaps attempting to exclude books from being published in any other form.

    Apple has now addressed the issue by releasing an update to iBooks Author that includes a modified licensing agreement to clarify that Apple claims rights only to the .ibooks document format itself, with authors being free to distribute their content in non-.ibooks formats however they wish. “


  1. […] come on, Apple). You can give away Author-ed EPUBS, but you can’t sell them anywhere but Apple. I don’t think that’s a DRM issue, Kelvin, if I understand the format correctly — the limitation isn’t baked into the output file — but […]

  2. […] Kelvin and I had a digital conversation, John Gruber has been posting the dickens out of the ramifications of the iBooks Author EULA since last Thursday’s announcement of Apple’s iBook (not ‘ePub’, not ‘eBook’) authoring tool, and Ryan Stevens has shown us what the output might look like. After the cheering, booing, foot-stomping, and so on, I’m set to propose a series of tentative assessments of the EULA and its controversy.   First, Dan Wineman (via Gruber, and see Gruber here) is 100% right that Apple needs to take stock and clarify the precise force of its EULA (and make some changes, if need be). State in plain language what the EULA reserves, what it permits, and stick with it. ‘Uncertainty’ is more than a third of FUD, and Apple’s a strong enough company that it can sustain profits by being the best at what it does; no need to be sleazy.   Second, the idea that iBooks author is primarily iBooks Author, not any-other-kind-of-digital-pub Author, is pretty well established. Apple has produced a free app (a very excellent one, from what I hear) the purpose of which is to produce Apple iBooks publications. Got it. There’s nothing nefarious about producing such an app, nor releasing it in the wild, nor adapting an open standard toward the end of profit for one particular company. Apple iBooks Author exists in its current form for the sole purpose of developing non-ePub-standard output files. If it be granted that such a thing may exist (and other epublication file types exist uncontroversially, so there shouldn’t be a problem with Apple having one, too), then making it easy and attractive for publishers and authors to produce works for that file type should not only be a positive step, but should be understood as a generous step on Apple’s part. I don’t remember Amazon developing and distributing for free a Kindle-pub generator.   Third, I don’t see a great proportion of the ePub market needing the enhanced Apple widgets that differentiate .ibooks files from .epub files. If Trinity College wants to publish a digital edition of Bunayn’s Pilgrim’s Progress without animations, soundtrack, interstitial ads, or whatever else the widgets enable, no one’s going to miss the bells and whistles. So Apple has developed a very sweet app for producing digital texts whose range and impact will be unnecessarily limited by the EULA and output file combination (since only Apple supplies apps that can read .ibooks files). That’s a limitation that adversely affects Apple’s prominence and influence, without a compensatory benefit.   So fourth, it’s still early enough in the aftermath of the announcement for Apple to issue an expansive clarification and redefinition that wouldn’t put the least dent in their business model. Tim Cook meets David Pogue, Walt Mossberg, and a couple of other reporters and says: ‘That EULA was too complicated and too aggressive — so here’s what we’ll do. The next iteration of the EULA will say that if you produce a book/file with Author, you have to offer it to us to sell if we want. You can’t use our format and our free software and then cut us out of the deal. Second, if you want to give it away, knock yourself out. No restrictions at all. Go to town. Third, we’ll incorporate an Export option in the next version that enables you to use Author to produce a vanilla, standards-compliant ePub file, or a PDF, or a plain text file if you want — but as with any other work generated by iBooks Author, you have to allow us to sell it if you’re selling it elsewhere. This doesn’t hurt you — we’ll be your best vendor anyway — and if you want to give it away, again, you’re OK to do that. Partners.’ That preserves Apple’s marketplace model (‘make it with Author, sell it through AppleBookStore’), allows free distribution of publications with Apple’s software (still runs only on the Apple OS, and probably says ‘Made With Author’ in the XML) thus extending Apple’s reach without costing itself anything — those would be free anyway and their presence and good looks in the marketplace underscore Apple’s prominence.   No consulting fee from me, Tim; you’re free to do with my advice whatever you want. I just want to make handsome, clean, accessible digital documents.   […]

Speak Your Mind