Apple’s New iBooks Author

Apple may have done it yet again.

The iBooks system launched today puts a powerful but easy-to-use authoring system into the hands of anyone who wants it, presaging the publication of dynamic ebooks by the millions—texts that will, of course, range in quality from the wretched to the superb—and, I should add, from the free to the expensive. Apple, being Apple, has tied this software in pretty tightly to its own iPad: books made by iBooks Author are made to be viewed on an iPad and may only be sold on Apple’s iTunes Store. (There is also an ability to export a book from Author into PDF or TXT format, though how much functionality survives the transition to PDF I haven’t yet discovered.)

Apple’s video ad for this system—”Apple in Education,” because the system is aimed ostensibly at writers of textbooks — gives you a decent sense of what’s possible, once you get past the somewhat saccharine and trite testimonials about teaching.

At first glance, which is all I’ve given it, iBook Author seems to offer a great deal of promise. It looks about as easy to use as Keynote or PowerPoint, though I imagine some of the more dynamic elements will take a bit of getting used to; and the business of designing for touch instead of mouse clicks will require practice.

I see a big future here for the use of iBook Author in law firms as a creator of teaching / reference tools, and, indeed, to make promotional and explanatory material for clients. Of course, everyone will need to have an iPad. Which is the plan.


  1. David Collier-Brown

    Pleasantly, Apple chose to continue using the ePub standard, which can be read by almost everything, and created fairly easily. What they’ve added is real ease-of-use, which will probably sell a lot of iPads and Macs.


  2. Hi David

    It may not be so clear that Author uses the official epub standard:

    Curious in a way that Apple hasn’t fully address interoperability.

  3. David Collier-Brown

    My smarter colleagues suggests this is an improper superset of epub 3.0, as their tools mostly work on it, with some exceptions that look like they were stolen from HTML 5 (:-))


  4. Since this is a law blog, too –

    a tidbit from something worth reading. There are other evil empires.

    The Ed Bott Report

    Apple’s mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement

    Over the years, I have read hundreds of license agreements, looking for little gotchas and clear descriptions of rights. But I have never, ever seen a legal document like the one Apple has attached to its new iBooks Author program.

    I read EULAs so you don’t have to. I’ve spent years reading end user license agreements, EULAs, looking for little gotchas or just trying to figure out what the agreement allows and doesn’t allow.

    I have never seen a EULA as mind-bogglingly greedy and evil as Apple’s EULA for its new ebook authoring program.

    Dan Wineman calls it “unprecedented audacity” on Apple’s part. For people like me, who write and sell books, access to multiple markets is essential. But that’s prohibited:

    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.


    Those of us here, with the right background, know that once upon a time a famous legal name wrote about supposedly dead laws that they nonetheless ruled from their graves.


  5. I should have included the perfect visual (?) byte from the Ed Bott Report

    Exactly: Imagine if Microsoft said you had to pay them 30% of your speaking fees if you used a PowerPoint deck in a speech.

    And Mr. Bott’s summation:

    As a publisher and an author, I obviously have a dog in this hunt. But what I see so far makes this program and its output an absolute nonstarter for me.

    Oh, and let’s just stipulate that I could send an e-mail to Apple asking for comment, or I could hand-write my request on a sheet of paper and then put it in a shredder. Both actions would produce the same response from Cupertino. But if anyone from Apple would care to comment, you know where to find me.

  6. Not everyone is so steamed about this; it’s not a big departure from what Apple does respecting apps created (using any means) for the iPhone, after all: must go through the App Store, paying Apple a tariff.

    Respecting the iBook material, the content remains yours to do with as you please and to sell anywhere in other formats. And if you’re giving a book created with the iBook Author away, you can give it free of any Apple claim. So the only crimp here is if you choose to use their tool to format it for sale for the iPad; there are other tools you could use to create for the iPad if 30% is too high for you.

  7. Granted, but I suppose that’s part of Bott’s point:

    The program allows you to export your work as plain text, with all formatting stripped. So you do have the option to take the formatting work you did in iBooks Author, throw it away, and start over. That is a devastating potential limitation for an author/publisher. Outputting as PDF would preserve the formatting, but again the license would appear to prohibit you from selling that work, because it was generated by iBooks Author.

  8. another tech writer not happy with Apple’s approach

    the author suggests Apple’s exclusivity attempt is a response to a Kindle/Amazon 90 day exclusivity arrangement which

    gives that author some benefits (such as being part of the Amazon Prime machine and being a part of a fairly sizable pool of money to be distributed to all authors — based on sales and other factors). It’s that exclusivity that Apple doesn’t like.

    Thing is — Apple book sales are a pittance compared to Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

    He concludes

    Apple is going to lose on this one. Very few writers I know will agree to these rights simply because they want their work distributed by as many platforms as possible. And until Apple retracts both the language and intent, this new tool of theirs will die a slow, lonely death.