iBooks Author has gotten off to a rocky start today. The license agreement for it states that all books created within Apple’s new textbook authoring software can only be sold via the Apple. Specifically,
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)…
It is understandable that this restriction would rub some people the wrong way. Apple has created a pretty amazing tool, that may revolutionize the education of children, and then shackled it to their platform. But, I don’t think this should come as a surprise to anyone. It is exactly what they do with apps.
When I sit down and create an app in Xcode for the iPhone there is a single legal avenue by which I can then make it available to the world, the App Store. Apple has built up an immense developer support infrastructure around the App Store, I imagine paid for by the revenues they get from app sales. This basic premise has become part-and-parcel of what software creation in the mobile space looks like. If Apple didn’t seek to inject themselves into the commerce of app sales what incentive would they have to enhance and refine the eco-system?
The real story here today shouldn’t be that Apple has ‘audaciously’ claimed ownership of the books make with iBooks Author but that they have created an avenue for non-commercial distribution that would exclude them entirely. That is actually unprecedented.
If I create a textbook using iBooks Author and then decide to made it freely available to the world (à la Khan Academy) I can do that without any restriction. Simple click ‘Export’ within iBook Author and the resulting file can be distributed by any means I choose and then loaded in iBooks. The mind boggles at what things may come out of this.
All Apple is doing with this restriction is saying that if you directly profit from this free tool and platform that we have created, then we deserve our cut. Which seems entirely fair to me.