In the midst of the excitement about Apple’s education announcement last Thursday, one writer actually decided to read the EULA (end user license agreement) for Apple’s new iBooks Author Mac App. Dan Wineman’s post, “The Unprecedented Audacity of the iBooks Author EULA” spurred a slew of posts and discussions about implications of the agreement.
If you have installed iBooks Author on your own Mac, then I’m sure you have already thoroughly read the EULA. (Just kidding). We all know that next to nobody actually reads the user agreement. This issue shows, however, exactly why reading the EULA matters.
The ‘unprecedentedly audacious’ passage follows:
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) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple.
What is all the fuss about? According to the New York Times, Apple is claiming an indirect share of the author’s book rights by limiting where the author can sell his work. While iBooks author is free to download, work created using the app is regulated (rather strictly) by Apple.
The reactions across the web ranged from outrage to reasoned explanation. PC Mag’s Sacha Segan took the (hopefully unlikely) view that Apple exerting control over creations with iBooks Author would lead to similar controls over the company’s other software.
Jon Gruber, of Daring Fireball, made two very salient points. First, the EULA will keep users from creating content for competing eBook platforms, such as the Kindle. Second, the Kindle’s format is also proprietary. Kindle also offers a direct publishing program.
Some of Wineman and Segan’s outrage comes from a personal, almost emotional level, as they see how these rules could be applied to hurt the little guy down the line. Though hopefully Apple will offer some clarification about its EULA. As of now, the company has not offered any statements regarding the concern generated by the EULA.
Regardless of whether you believe the iBooks Author EULA is a herald of dark days to come or just another bit of red tape, on thing is certain — before using iBooks Author, users need to educate themselves on the limitations of what Apple is (and is not) offering.
There is, dear readers, no free lunch, nor is there a truly free Mac app for which to author books that you plan to publish as in any format you wish for a profit. Apple told us all this was the case, but it’s just buried in the user agreement instead of being mentioned on Thursday when iBooks Author was unveiled. While it may have been preferable for writers if Apple had charged for iBooks Author and not limited the distribution of the content created with the app, that is not the case.
Therefore, potential users need to view iBooks Author as a tool for a specific purpose: to fill iBooks with content. As Gruber says, “the app’s name is iBooks Author, not eBooks Author.” It is not a blanket program that will let a writer create a book that can be sold on a competing platform, or even for a profit on Apple’s platform without giving Apple their cut.