In a rare departure from the usual course of events, a significant number of folks are up in arms about a Terms of Service / EULA issue and I don’t think there’s any problem at all. Yes, I’m one of those rare creatures that pays attention to such things (heck, I even gave a talk about giving your rights away at Ignite Portland a few years back). And while some prominent writers feel that the terms of the license agreement for Apple’s new iBooks Author program are “so achingly awful”, they seem reasonable to me.
The Terms and the Disagreement
The portion of the license agreement in question specifies two things:
- Content created with iBooks Author and given away for free may be distributed via any means
- Content created with iBooks Author and sold may only be sold via the iBookstore (run by Apple and subject to a 30% commission)
Those objecting to the terms are objecting to the second; their argument seems to be that Apple should allow the content to be sold via any means possible and not restricted to the iBookstore.
Keep in mind that Apple is a for-profit corporation. They’re a corporation which has made several innovative moves that have pushed us forward, but they’re a corporation nonetheless. They aren’t offering iBooks Author and the iTunes textbook store purely out of the good of their heart; they’re doing it because they feel their innovation will move the industry forward and they will make a lot of money in the process.
From my first few weeks with my original iPad, I’ve felt that Apple could benefit by making some sort of toolset that easily allowed for content to be published for the device. Apple has now done just that. The resulting book can’t be sold for Android, or for PCs. Apple has provided a tool that allows content creators to better create content for Apple’s iPad device.
If the terms of iBooks Author are that horrible, textbook vendors (or any other ebook authors) are welcome to continue creating their content via other methods and distribute as they have in the past even through the iBookstore. The terms only apply to the authoring tool. No rights or abilities have been removed from anyone. Anyone can still create and distribute content for any platform, including the iPad, in all of the ways that they could 24 hours ago before iBooks Author was announced.