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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Uh Oh! iBooks Author Gotcha

   
Author Topic: Uh Oh! iBooks Author Gotcha
RoxyL
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Those in self-publishing have probably been looking at the iBooks Author program just released by Apple.

Please take a minute to read the following article. This makes it look like bad, bad news.

Apples Mind Bogglingly Greedy and Evil License Agreement

What do you all think?

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pdblake
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Well, for a start the author of the article says he 'skimmed the EULA'. I think, before writing an article on something, you need to do a bit more than skim it.

Secondly, would an agreement that restrictive even be enforceable?

Lasty, if it could be, what writer in their right mind would agree to it?

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RoxyL
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What if an author wanting to publish a novel only 'skimmed the EULA,' too? I know I wouldn't understand the fine print.
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babooher
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Good article! Enforceable or not, I don't like the precedent. Sounds like a rotten Apple to me.
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redux
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If I understand that clause correctly, it's saying that if you use iBooks you can only sell the output through the Apple store. You can't take your iBook formatted novel and put it up for sale elsewhere. If you want to sell it elsewhere you have to take the content and re-format it using some other software.

I don't think they are laying claim to the content - only to the "binding" so to speak.

At least that's the way I read it.

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babooher
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That's how I read it, too, but I'd think having to reformat your work would be a pain.
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redux
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What's the precedent? A private company is deciding what it wants to allow for sale in its store.

I can't find the full text of the EULA but I'm going to hazard a guess that they are defining 'the Work' as the output of the iBook app. I don't think they are claiming ownership your actual story/novel. If they are, then I fully agree - run away and don't look back. Otherwise, that clause actually sounds more lenient than a brick & mortar publisher. With the latter only they would bind and publish your book at distribute it. Unlike Apple iBook, you wouldn't be able to take the raw content of your story/novel, print it out yourself and put it up for sale someplace else.

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Meredith
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Writer Beware just had a blog about this.

Sounds like something to be wary of.

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mrmeadors
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I've been looking into this. From what I can see, Apple claims ownership of the end result of your file going through their software. The content of the file, your story, is still yours, you just can't use it in the formatted way they created. Basically, what Redux said.

However there is the precedent being set here. I'm not saying that this will ever happen, but think about this--what is the difference between this and say, Scrivener or MS saying that anything that is formatted by their software cannot be used for sales by anyone else by them, and they receive a cut of the cash? Yes, it's a bit different, but still...worth thinking about a little.

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redux
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mrmeadors - I see what you mean. Definitely gives one pause.

It would be as if Bic and Mead decided to appropriate your work because you used their pen and notebook to write it.

Time to start baking clay tablets and learning cuneiform [Smile]

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babooher
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Redux said: "Otherwise, that clause actually sounds more lenient than a brick & mortar publisher. With the latter only they would bind and publish your book at distribute it. Unlike Apple iBook, you wouldn't be able to take the raw content of your story/novel, print it out yourself and put it up for sale someplace else."

Maybe I'm being too simplistic, but a traditional publisher also takes on some costs associated with publishing and marketing, while Apple is assuming none of those costs. I mean, a traditional brick and mortar publisher would buy my content and then control the publication of it. Apple doesn't even do that.

I guess I don't get it, and since I don't plan on switching to the software I don't have to get it. Still, you guys have already pointed out the logical end of this kind of control.

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Corin224
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Wait, apple's taking on none of which costs? Paying skilled engineers to define a standard and keep it up to date with changing technology? Paying programmers to create and maintain software that quickly and easily formats data to meet that standard? Paying bandwith, energy and maintenance costs to keep software hosted somewhere where people can get it, and use it for free? Paying support staff to field phone calls and e-mail related to that software? Paying programmers, support staff, server costs and more to maintain their apple store, where books can easily be found and distributed?

They're paying NONE of those costs?

Well, if that's the case, then I agree, they should just give that tool we want at no charge.

But, since they ARE paying those quite significant costs, I guess from my perspective, it's like a publisher saying "Sure, use my printing presses and distribution channels, but everything you print and distribute with my equipment and contacts, I get a cut of."

All this EULA says is "If you make stuff using our software, you have to let us distribute it and take our cut . . . and ACTUALLY, if you're not charging for it, forget even THAT . . . spread it around wherever you want for free!

The catch? If you want money for it, and they reject your work, you're out of luck. Now you have to re-format it using somebody else's software and sell THAT format on your own.

Dunno, but that doesn't seem that unreasonable to me. Other publishers prevent you from distributing your work AT ALL for a period of time once they accept it. Can you imagine publisher A printing your book, then saying "Feel free to use publisher B to distribute this book we just printed for free and handed over to you. They'll take a smaller cut, and that definitely works out better for you!"

Maybe I missed something, but that seems pretty reasonable.

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redux
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Corin224 - That's how I see it too, but there seems to be concern about what "the Work" means. I've been trying to do some searches and there doesn't seem to be a clear consensus on how Apple defined it in the EULA.

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1311769

Usually, a vague term in a contract is interpreted against the drafting party. But that requires a judge to determine whether it is vague (and not just the parties willfully arguing) and if so what it does mean.

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Meredith
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Corin224:

You did miss something. Two somethings, actually.

First, Apple is not equivalent to a brick and mortar publisher with iAuthor. They're not paying for the right to publish your work and they're not taking on the book production and marketing. Merely producing a tool for you to do the production yourself. For that, they're entitled to a fair price, just like any other software, not a cut of the product.

Second, read the fine print. If you use this product, you're giving up the right to distribute your book through any other seller. In other words, you're cut off from the largest ebook markets--Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Not a good deal for the author, IMO.

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redux
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Out of curiosity - for those who are more familiar with e-publishing - what tools are there out there in order to convert a text file to the various e-book formats?
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mrmeadors
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If you upload your book to smashwords in a .doc file, they convert it to epub (nook among others), mobi (kindle), pdf, rtf...I might be missing some. But then you can take those files and upload them to barnes and noble and amazon, and not have to reformat at all, as you would if you used the ibooks tool. And that is free, to upload your book. Smashwords only gets money from the actual sales of your book on their site.

There are other ways as well, you can format for each platform individually (though, from what I am seeing from the resistance to the ibooks thing, that is not what people want to do).

And again, from what I can understand of this mess, if you upload your book to ibook, you cannot use the PRODUCT of uploading, meaning the final formatted book, in any other sales platform. THat does not, however, mean that you can't use the CONTENT of your book, the story, in a different format (.mobi for kindle for example), to sell on amazon, etc. It is a pain in the butt. You'd have to do more work. You're not forbidden from selling your stuff on Amazon or barnes and noble, you just have to reformat everything.

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redux
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Thanks for the info mrmeadors!
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babooher
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Corin224, I wasn't trying to say they should give the software for free. I just don't want the software company having a say on the product.

And I get that they don't own the content, just the format. I think this is actually more of a jab towards other platforms, but I think it could come back to bite Apple. If there is other similar software out there that doesn't limit the author with this kind of clause, then why choose the Apple product? Exclusivity can be a selling point, but I don't think this is going to be one.

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Owasm
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I upload direct to Amazon, Pubit (B&N) and Smashwords. Smashwords distributes to iBook. If you don't need the extra doodads that you can probably put in with the iBook authoring tool, then you don't need to use the Apple software.

However if you do add the extra stuff, then I guess that version will be an Apple version with its own ISBN. Think if it as a special edition and I don't see anything particularly sinister, except all of that creativity is going to go on iBook which is not the market leader.

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Corin224
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Meredith,

Good points, though I still tend to disagree. That whole post was a bit snarkier than I meant it to be, so . . . sorry all the way around for that, including to babooher, who I wasn't really disagreeing with, just using the comment as a jumping off point for a rant.

OTOH, Meredit, I do still disagree with your two points.

1) Apple's making that product, and they're free to demand whatever terms they want for the use of that product, up to and including "If you're going to use our format, built by our tool, we get to sell it in that format." And to me, that doesn't seem unreasonable. It's not a tricky clause that says "we magically now own your story." and you may be right that it's not a great model for authors, and if not, apple will suffer the consequences of setting crappy terms on their product.

2) The argument about missing out on the other big markets is a bogus argument, too. I make an iPhone app, I can only sell it on the apple app store, and I would expect to have to create a new format to get it onto PCs or Android phones.

Similarly , as mrmeadors said, there's nothing in that EULA to prevent an author from taking the same approach and republishing with a different tool in a different format. Distateful, yes, and a big deterrent to using that product, but for me, not a big huge "evil empire" type of thing.

And as far as redux's comment about "the Work" not being defined, I thought that post actually said it WAS defined, so perhaps I misread it. If there's still debate about that, then I agree, it should be clarified, though I understood it to be the file created by this tool, not the artwork or writing.

But, all disagreement aside, apologies for the attitude, if not the content.

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KayTi
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I think you guys don't quite understand what is revolutionary about iBooks Author. It's not just another ebook publishing tool (though I am eagerly awaiting such a tool because it's a bit ridiculous the gyrations we have to go through to get our formatted text exactly right. Most of us just decide to get it close enough and move on.)

It is a MULTIMEDIA AUTHORING ENVIRONMENT. For free. Most software of this sort costs *thousands* of dollars. High hundreds at the very least. The package I'm using currently for my work, Articulate, is $1400 a seat. I want it on this computer AND that computer down the hall? $1400x2 = $2800. I could negotiate with the company and get a price break if I am buying a few dozen licenses, possibly. Maybe we'd get 20% off. Let's see, 12x1000 = a big number!

Authoring environments are massively powerful, they put the ability to create high-end multimedia experiences in the hands of technology novices. Who are often also known as artists, designers, visionaries, and really cool people who don't have time/the wherewithall to learn how to program.

Apple is laying claim to the output of their authoring environment, only in that they require you to sell your output through their store (if you choose to give it away you can do that willy nilly.)

If you want to recreate your multimedia book for sale elsewhere (er, where exactly would that be? I suppose nook color/kindle fire are the only other platforms, but from a tablet perspective Apple pretty well dominates the multimedia book landscape), you'll need to program the HTML yourself. It won't kill you. It's not necessarily hard to make a video show on the left panel of a page and some static text on the right with a few hyperlinks to reference materials and an image from flikr. But to have it all in one authoring environment is pretty freaking awesome.

I'm talking with my client about creating a series of educational ebooks about their company, sales pieces, marketing materials. Think interactive brochure-style stuff.

My kids will be dying to try this out with some of their little videos they shoot. They do claymation and stop-motion animation sometimes, plus live-action videos with their friends. A story book that includes clips to watch here and there with text in between? Awesome. And my kids can create them on their own.

It opens up a whole new market for multimedia artists, people who don't just create words on a page but who illustrate their own work or have a passion for video. Book trailers, little add-ons like a video message from the author, or scenes shot in the woods that were the setting that inspired the book. Just imagine where you could go with this!?

For a person like me who is already aggressively consuming the additional media my favorite authors produce on their blogs, facebook pages, twitter feeds, this could open a whole new avenue to getting more content from my favorite authors.

Its terrifically exciting. It's worth reading the EULA closely (I'm in the middle of downloading the app and will do so when it installs) to fully understand what you're licensing when you're using the tool to create your own digital media projects, but if you're a cookbook author or a photo blogger who has always wanted to write a "best of my blog" book and hasn't had an avenue...oy! Nothing about using images has been easy in ebook publishing in the past. Now not just images but video and audio, too?

I'm so excited I could burst. [Wink]

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Merlion-Emrys
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~uses a little White Road magic to apply a nifty barrier to maintain KayTi's structural integrity.~


~goes back to prying tentacles off his face~

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KayTi
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LOL Merlion. I should have clarified something, I love me my Apple products because I'm a *designer* by profession and passion, I love and appreciate good design. However, I'd be this excited if anybody came up with a free software package to automate stuff I've had to hire reams of programmers for over the years (er, sorry programmers. I still love you. I promise I'll find new nifty projects for you to work on. There's this AI Robot I've got in mind but I can't get through the natural language parser...oh wait. Siri can help...)

Also, I read the EULA. There's a separate EULA when you sign up to sell things on the Apple store, but I see this clause as just Apple being Apple, which is to say that they want to have final control over what products are offered in their environment. I'm sure you've all heard that they have a rigorous approval process to go through to get an app into the app store. You can't just slap something together with some advertising malware snuck in, Apple has a gating process they require you to go through and they can eject you for any reason (some argue they've been nefarious about their rejections in the past. I'm sure there have been some edge cases that have made people upset.) They are applying the same conditions to their iBooks Authoring tool.

And I also forgot to mention that the primary audience this is pitched at, as the first page of templates on the app clearly illustrates, is textbook authors and others who create educational content. Apple is making a big play in the education space right now (it'll sell more macbooks and iPads, to take a cynical view.) Each of the possible templates you can look at is a textbook. Botany, Astronomy, Algebra. To make my ebook a story book I'll have to modify the template somewhat significantly.

But for my day job work as an eLearning designer? Gold.

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Merlion-Emrys
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My actions had absolutely nothing to do with the topic...I have only a basic understanding of any of this. But you said something about bursting, so I felt a bolstering action was called for.

It's also possible I've licked one too many Shoggoths.

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Heresy
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Um, Merlion, I know this is totally off topic, but I have to ask (though I'm already certain I will regret this), why in hell were you licking Shoggoths? Ugh....

-Julie

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Merlion-Emrys
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Well, I suppose it would probably make more sense to lick Tsathoggua, being toad like and all.

It's supposed to represent a Lovecraftian version of licking toads.

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Heresy
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Okay, that makes a bit more sense now, if in an entirely disturbing kind of way. Ick. No more asking questions tonight, or I'll have nightmares (or evil story ideas that wake me up in the night, just as bad).

-Julie

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mrmeadors
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I think so many people freaked out when they saw the EULA, and didn't understand what was going on, and then with the ZDNEt article making its rounds (which, I have to say, was a little too premature and reactionary, and all it did was cause panic with info that was not all entirely accurate), people were just running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

The best thing to do is give it a little time. As KayTi said, there is some cool stuff this thing can do, new doors it can open. It might not be for everyone, and I encourage everyone to take the initiative (as I will certainly be doing) to do their own research before using it. I'm sure within the next couple weeks there will be reviews of it and discussions, and more info will be available (that is more user-friendly than the EULA).
Melanie

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annepin
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Here's a professional author's POV, from Holly Lisle:

http://hollylisle.com/how-to-say-i-was-wrong/?awt_l=H3PA.&awt_m=JmUU.wrWPE_XgP

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mrmeadors
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Excellent post! Thank you anne, for sharing that! It answered a lot of the questions I had. [Smile]

Melanie

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Robert Nowall
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You know what they say about boilerplate language...the old joke was that agreeing to Microsoft boilerplate meant agreeing to be Bill Gates's towel boy. I suppose now that Steve Jobs has passed on, you move on to being someone else's towel boy at Apple...maybe they have an opening for a towel boy at Pixar...
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