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It Thinks It Owns Any Book You Make Through iBooks Author (AAPL)

January 20, 2012   ·   0 Comments


Phil Schiller iPad textbook event

In addition to announcing new textbooks for iPad, Apple also released a new free Mac App that lets you create and publish your own books for sale in the iBooks store. It’s called iBooks Author.

It seems like a neat tool. Until you read the user agreement.

Dan Wineman pointed out on his blog that Apple’s End User License Agreement (EULA) states that books made with the iBook Author app and sold through the iBook store can’t be sold anywhere else.

However, if you offer your book for free in the iBooks store, then you can distribute it for free anywhere else you want.

Here’s the paragraph from the iBooks Author EULA. I took this screen grab from the Mac App Store:

ibooks author eula

Why is this such a big deal? Wineman provided the best analogy for Apple’s decision to control how you sell books made with its app:

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.

Scary stuff. And you know it’s really, really bad when John Gruber smashes Apple for the decision:

This is Apple at its worst. Let’s hope this just the work of an overzealous lawyer, and not their actual intention.

So Apple is providing you with a free tool that will help you sell your work through their own store. But even though it’s your creation, Apple claims ownership over it simply because you used its app to make it.

This also ties into Jay’s point that not everyone wants to be stuck in Apple’s world. It’s in an author’s best interest to sell work on as many platforms as possible. For example, Amazon makes it very easy to self publish through Kindle. But if you make your book using iBook Author and sell through iBooks first, you’re stuck in Apple’s ecosystem and missing the opportunity to reach out to millions of others using non-Apple devices. (Kindle is available on just about every major smartphone and tablet.)

And what if you want out of Apple’s system? It looks like you need to somehow get in touch with the company and work out a separate agreement. Good luck with that.

UPDATE: PandoDaily’s Paul Carr weighed in on the issue. I figured it’s worth mentioning since he seems to be the only person out there defending iBooks Author’s EULA. He argues that Apple has always had a closed ecosystem, so people shouldn’t be surprised that it’s doing the same by locking authors into iBooks:

It’s Apple: a company that has made billions and billions of dollars, despite — or perhaps because of — tightly dictating what people can do on and with its products. They have done this with no law being passed insisting that we all buy iPads and iPods, nor are they using predatory pricing to flood  the market with their hardware so we have no other choice but to use it…

…And yet still we buy their stuff by the bucketload.

That’s a good point. But the problem is that it isn’t realistic for everyone who downloads iBooks Author to read the EULA and know they’re being locked into the Apple ecosysten. Even worse, Apple says simply by using the software you agree to its terms. No signing papers. No “Check Here If You Agree” box. Nothing:

apple end user license agreement ibooks author

It’s sneaky and it’s wrong.

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