Saturday, January 28, 2012

What's the Story with iBooks Author?

On January 19, Apple launched the iBooks Author app, which, according to, "allows authors to create interactive works for publishing on Apple's new iBooks 2 platform."

I was curious about this new app, and did a little digging. Here are some details and early opinions:

"Armed with the new app, users will be able to choose from a template to create their books (much like the wizard in Microsoft Word) allowing them to drag and drop elements into the page and position them with ease."

"Similar to Keynote and Pages, authors can embed galleries and elements, but also include JavaScript and HTML5 code, providing them with the ability to deliver truly custom content from their computer or the Web."

GigaOM reported that Diesel Sweeties creator and artist R Stevens created an iBook over the course of one weekend. Roberts noted some positives, but also these negatives:

"...bandwidth required to provide the downloads is a problem, which could be overcome by selling via the iBookstore, but that entails additional costs and operating within the confines of Apple's marketplace."

"The other problem is with how iBooks Author writes to PDF, since Stevens wants to offer the collections to anyone, regardless of platform. Apple adds branding to its iBooks Author PDF output, which Stevens says is understandable since it's a free tool."

GigaOM also said this:

"...while Apple will let you distribute the book independent of the iBookstore, if you want to make any money on the product, you have to go through the iBookstore and the iBookstore only." explained how easy it is to drag and drop:

"The process of creating an iBook is surprisingly straightforward. Creators can type their text directly into iBooks Author, but Rosner (Apple VP of Productivity Applications) noted that some people prefer doing their writing in a different environment like Microsoft Word. iBooks Author plays nice with those Word documents, as it automatically picks out and creates sections and headers from the text itself when the document is dragged into a new iBook chapter. Adding images is just as simple, as users can drag them onto a page while the text reformats itself around whatever you add."

How does iBooks Author stack up to the competition? Click here for a graph on At a glance it seemed to fare well, but all the colors and numbers threatened a head explosion, so I'll have to come back to those.

In this post and this post, the license agreement came under fire. Same with this post on (the comments on these posts are also enlightening):

"As (Ed) Bott explains, 'The nightmare scenario under this agreement? You can create a work of staggering literary genius that you think you can sell for 5 or 10 bucks per copy. You craft it carefully in iBooks Author. You submit it to Apple. They reject it. Under this license agreement, you are out of luck. They won't sell it, and you can't legally sell it elsewhere. You can give it away, but you can't sell it.'"

This discussion is fascinating, and it'll be interesting to see how the whole thing plays out.

Before downloading the software, anyone who's seriously considering using this app should read The Fine Print of iBooks Author over at Writer Beware.

What have you learned about this app? Based on what you know, would you publish through the iBookstore?


  1. Thanks for all the good info, Julie. This is all too much for me. I'm finished with all this brain-boggling stuff. I managed to self publish two stories on KDP, and that's it.

    Writer Beware is the place to check for things like this. I've learned this from sometimes sad experience.
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

  2. It's not a scam - it's their product for their platform. And it's main focus is for creating textbooks. (One also has to own a MAC in order to run it.) Apple is trying to get away from individual apps and incorporate all books and textbooks into the iBookstore, like what they've done with their magazine platform.

  3. Interesting. I've heard about it, but haven't learned too much, yet. I've learned more from your post, though.

  4. I hadn't heard of iBooks before. Thanks for the information!

  5. I don't know much at all - but it's fun to learn about it all. I think the future of text books is going to be very exciting with the interactive links. So helpful to college kids and a lot lighter to carry around too! :)

  6. I've heard of it but not interested. People complain about Amazon being exclusive but they are nothing compared with Apple. And if I'm going to give anyone exclusive rights to my ebooks, I'd rather it be for the Kindle (which is only 90 days at a time if you opt in, and it allows you some excellent promotional tools) than for the iPad.

  7. It will be very interesting to see what people think of it in the long run. But I think some of the arguments are extremely emotional and reactive. For example, why would Apple let you use their incredible software and then sell the product on Amazon? That would be foolish. They aren't claiming rights to your intellectual property, the text, just the enhanced version.

    Fiction has a place with this app but it's mainly for textbooks. I've been trying to explain to my husband the cool things he could use it for in his classroom. For example, create one lesson with interactive media and use it for his classroom. Don't try to sell it. Just bring something new to his teaching. So much potential.

  8. Oh, this is such a comprehensive explanation, thank you -- I've been trying to work out what it's about. I'll be watching with interest to see what place it takes in the marketplace.

  9. Hmm, that "nightmare scenario" part kind of puts me off ;) It'd be worth using if you're not intending to try and sell a work at all, I guess.

  10. I read up on these developments this week. I am happy to sit back and watch what happens. If other writers start telling of their problems, then I won't touch it.

    Patience is a virtue in this industry.

  11. Our school district is going digital (iPads and MacPros), so I have heard of this in the sense of textbooks, but didn't realize it could be used for fiction, too. It could be interesting to hear who's able to use it for their advantage, and how.

  12. Very comprehensive and helpful. Good research, Julie. Sounds great for textbooks. Honestly, I'm confused by much of this stuff...but it doesn't take much! I'll wait and see. I do that a lot.

  13. Thanks Julie! I operate a Mac, and yet to know how this works. This helped a lot to open my mind to something else to find time to learn about. lol. I loved the readers comments too! They added great insight.

  14. Oh wow, thanks for this super informative post! I'd had about the app's release, but then nothing more, and of course I was curious. It's really disturbing that if iBooks rejects it you can't sell it anywhere else.

  15. All I know is my hubby is more excited than I am about it, dreaming up all sorts of future uses. But I say we should wait a while and see how it works out. I think it's smart on Apple's part, but limiting for us as authors to have to stick to ONLY Ibooks. At least that's how it sounds.

  16. I'm a PC. *shrugs* We'll see when Microsoft answers the challenge. Thanks for the info though, it's good to know what it's all about.

  17. I don't know anything about this app! So is it like helping you put interactive things in your book? It's not trying to write the book for you is it? Must keep up... :p

  18. This is a great post Julie! Thanks for compiling this info. The point about the licensing agreement would seem to make it not usable for most people, but I'm sure everything is still in flux.

    I downloaded it so I can play around with it at some point in the future, but I'm going to wait for others to go first! :-)

  19. The mind reels. Thanks for the summary.

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  26. It’s all there right in front of anyone who cares to look. iBooks Author has ushered in an entirely new genre of literature. Straight commentary at:

    For those who want to see the future; and it doesn’t look pretty for Big Publishing.