iBooks Outrage!

So I have been reading some of the postings by techies about the fact that if you create a book with iBooks Author that you can only sell it through the iBookstore. Being a musician I figured I’d put my 2¢ worth in since I have an understanding of this.

If you want to distribute music that you’ve written and performed someone will want to take a cut of it unless you want to do it yourself and get a much smaller base. If you’re an author and write books the publisher will always take a cut. That’s just the way the world works. When you have something you want to distribute you can sell it on a street corner and hardly get much back, or you can have someone with the marketing backing behind them to put your work out there for the masses to find out about it and consume.

Why haven’t I heard these complaints previously from iOS app authors? If you want to write an app you first have to buy the tools so that you can get access to the system for writing the apps then when you release the app Apple will take a small percentage of your sales. Currently for iBooks, just as for music you sell through iTunes Apple takes 30% of the sales. Just to put this in perspective, Michael Jackson’s Thriller album gave 90% of the sales to the record company and only 10% to Michael himself.

This is a deal in comparison and I think people who haven’t had much contact with the media business need to understand this. Currently there are three formats you can release an eBook in, Apple’s iBook, PDF and Amazon’s [please correct me if I am wrong]. Now PDF’s are readable on any computer so you need no special device to read them on. You can read a PDF on an iOS device and I assume an Android just fine. You can even export from iBook Author to PDF, but the multimedia elements aren’t included.

Amazon’s format which is also used by the Barnes and Noble Nook is plain html and they take 50% of your selling price. There is no multimedia available in these eBooks as they are only words and pictures [black and white] on an ePage [I made that up, so can I have a trademark for being the first to use it?]. I just don’t think people realize that unless you’re going to cover all the marketing costs yourself and pound the pavement yourself, you’re not going to get the distribution you would through a company that will help you reach more people and will want a cut. Apple’s cut is pretty small compared to many others I’ve seen. I’ve had distribution offers for my music that the distributor has asked for a 40% cut. I go with iTunes because they only ask for 30%. That’s the cheapest distribution deal I’ve seen.

If you build it they will not come unless someone tells them that you’re there. Keep that in mind.

iBooks Author…Apple’s New Killer App?

I know, I’m supposed to be talking about San Francisco during the week, but after yesterday’s announcement by Apple I decided to write about our cousin, Cupertino and Apple.

I was excited today, but also a bit disappointed by the release of Apple’s new iBooks Author app for a number of reasons. I do think it was a good idea, but there are a few flaws that as I usually do, I’ll speak my mind on.

First off, the program has a very similar interface to Pages, Apple’s iWork word processor. It’s a decent word processor, but it’s no where near a page layout program like Adobe InDesign. What you can do from the provided six templates is very simple and nothing like what you see in the video Apple has on its website.

The multimedia effects are very cool that you can add into an iBook, but you need to have an eye for design or you’re just going to be tossing words on a page. This is great if you’re just trying to create something similar to a Kindle eBook, but the outrageous multimedia books in the video weren’t something your average home user could pull off in my opinion, at least not yet. You can do it, but you have to think more like a coder and designer than a writer, so there may be some additional work for me in the near future, since I do both.

Will it kill the textbook industry? I’d like to hope so because you can put more in your iPad at less weight than you can in your backpack which having a daughter now I’ve had a bit of problem reading about kids having to haul around 40+lbs of books for school. Electronic is also cheaper than a hardbound college textbook that you’re at the mercy of having to purchase so they inflate the price charging between $60-$100 for a book that in a few years will be outdated. I have only one book from my college years that is of any use to me today. As I said, I’d like to see it happen, but currently they only have about eight textbooks covering a range of subjects, so the publishers that Apple has partnered with should step it up now.

The other thing for people who want to publish a book is that first you need to own an iPad to preview it before you publish it and you also need to have that iPad tethered to your Mac. Our iPad is tethered to my wife’s Mac, so that means that any books I create as iBooks will now need to be copied over to her laptop to check them out before they’re released.

While some people think this will rock the textbook world, I’m thinking it’s more a gentle rumble. I remember when desktop publishing started and there was really  awful stuff produced for a few years until people figured out how to use it. Luckily that means that my daughter will be in second or third grade before it becomes more standard.