Apple January Announcement
Just the other day, last Thursday, Apple had a special presentation in New York in the Guggenheim and it addressed the publishing industry and the stranglehold it has had over it, for goodness knows how long. In the same way that Apple has been a disruptive force with regards the music industry and has been spearheading the sale of music via digital form and is going the same direction with the movie industry, it is hardly surprising that books and publishing is going to get the same treatment. There are a huge number of reasons why electronic books should be dominant by now, ecological, technological and even physiological. You only have to mention the idea of students in schools being able to have all of their books in an iPad and parents get excited that their little darlings, will no longer be harmed by having to carry around too many kilograms around the school daily. With regards the ecological argument for electronic books it is obvious that many trees of the world are going to be saved by a reduced amount of paper being required for making books.
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A new era of textbook publishing with iBooks Author
We are most certainly, at the cusp of a revolution in the publishing industry and book reading is finally going to change and I think it is a change for the better. Many of us traditional book readers, that are used to the dead tree versions of books, like to have the feel of a book in our hands and the smell of the ink on paper. On the other hand young people that are going through school now are more used to the fantastic technology that is available to us now and don’t have the romantic notions of what a book should be like.
There are some benefits of course to having a paper-based book, no batteries required to charge it or keep it going, easy to write notes in the margins or even to rip pages out if you’re so inclined. On the other hand the electronic books in some ways have even more things going for them. You can have a large number of electronic books in one small device. All of the text within the book is searchable and as we have seen with these latest text books the multimedia aspects of electronic books, turn a boring dusty old text into a rollercoaster ride of fun and learning. Many people will benefit from the different types of learning available with the use of photos, infographics, charts, animations, audio and video clips, that can all be used within the main body of the book and also to create exciting glossaries and pages of description.
iBooks Author a legacy from Steve Jobs
The destructive influence of technology over the textbook publishing industry is something that was close to the heart of Steve Jobs. At least in America, Apple have had a big influence upon education with efforts that have made to bring young people into the Apple Mac fold, while still students in schools. Not so much in other countries, where little effort has been made to get Apple computers into the schools. I wonder if the deals that Apple has made with the textbook publishers in the US will be any good across the other side of the pond, where we have different spelling of words, as well as huge differences in the subjects being studied, not to mention languages. Apple do seem to be looking towards having a worldwide market, even if they do tend to push things out first in their own country.
Books, writers, authors, media content producers – How will this new technology change the world?
I am all for the struggling artist, writer and content producer not getting blocked by the gatekeepers of the traditional published world, such as the agents and publishing companies. I like the idea that a writer and artist can create their stuff and get it out there building a fan base on the go. It seems to me that this is the best way forward with chance for the cream to rise to the top. A more egalitarian creative publishing world, could be possible, if the tools are made available to everyone. Apple have done this with making iBooks author available for free, you just have to have a Mac to be able to use it. Creative types tend to gravitate towards using the Mac anyway, so you could say the first step has already been made.
How will this new type of iBooks publishing work in reality?
As I mentioned just about anybody can pick up the tools to channel their creativity towards being published. The work can be given away, although if it is to be sold then there is possibly a requirement is that it has to be sold through the iBook store. There are some that complain that Apple is locking people into just one way of doing it. While that may be true to a certain extent, so long as there are other ways that creativity and sales of that creativity can flourish, I say – So what! When you consider that authors using the old paradigms of book publishing and the percentage that they would earn from sales would be very small indeed, then the 70% that is possible by using Apple as your storefront does seem to be quite generous.
Although it is still early days, the signs are very promising for this new way of publishing, with over 350,000 text books being sold in the first three days of the store being open. That is quite an amazing number when you consider that the number of titles available is quite small compared to what it will be like in one or two years time.
Using the iBooks Author Software
So if I want to write a book and sell it through the iBook store, first thing I have to do is to put the content into the iBooks Author application. You can work directly into the application or you can use other applications and bring the content in from those. When you have it all set up the way that you would like it to be in its finished form, you can apply for the account so that you can sell your work through iBooks. Whether you live in the United States or not you have to have a US tax identity and you also have to the able to provide an ISBN number for the book you intend to publish. That is if you are planning to work directly with Apple. I expect that payments would be made on a monthly basis in the same way that application developers get paid for their applications that are sold through the Mac App Store. If you don’t intend to work directly through Apple then you can use one of the publishing aggregators such as Lulu. One of the benefits for going in that direction, would be that Lulu would provide you with the ISBN numbers. Organising your own ISBN numbers can be a little awkward because of the way that they are set up on a country by country basis and from what I have seen that it is either a little expensive or just not that easy. In the UK you will pay £118 for 10 ISBN numbers or get 100 for £256.32. You will want to be sure that your book is going to sell if you are making that investment and that you will get the use out of the numbers you buy. I could see a group of authors getting together to buy a set of 100 and sharing out the costs.
On the other hand you might have a book that you want to give away, in which case you don’t have to go through the Apple iBook store. I have created a small iBook already through the iBooks author application and was able to export it and then copy it to my iPad. To be honest the process didn’t go particularly well, I have a number of problems to deal with and I am still working out why those problems occurred. I expect though that it would be easy enough once you have created an iBook in the iBooks version 2 format so that it will be possible to host the files on your website or in some place where it can be shared. From that shared place your readers or fans will be able to enjoy your creative content. I did think it would be possible at first to sell my books in this way, only finding out later that there is an agreement that is part of the software, requiring you to sell through the Apple iBook store. This may change, if other applications become available that produce electronic books in the same format in which case Apple may not know or be able to police how it was the book was produced, to enforce the selling through the Apple channel.
Is Apple deviating from the ePub Standards
The electronic format of the books as used by the textbooks you will find in the Apple iBook store, with all of the associated multimedia content is somewhere in between the EPUB2 and a new version that is being worked on and published at present. There are people that are claiming that Apple are sabotaging the Open Epub publishing format by including technology in this format that are not in the standard format, as well as not adhering to the standard as they should have done. Whether this is true or not doesn’t really matter because in all likelihood this format will become a standard for electronic publishing, at least where textbooks are concerned. It is still possible to publish books in the standard Epub format and they will still be available to be read on devices that also support that standard. This new Apple format has the .iba suffix
The iBooks Store is highly USA biased
I looked at the options for creating an account so that I could sell my books through Apple and there are a number of barriers if you don’t live in the United States. You do have to get yourself US tax code identity numbers and fill in a number of forms to register, it seems quite complicated, but I may persevere to see if I can complete the process. If it is not possible, then there is still the easier route by going through one of the aggregators. I would most likely use Lulu where I have an account already. I did look at a couple of aggregators on this side of the pond and one was mostly in German and the other seemed to be more French based. With all of the hoops that you have to jump through, I am sure that many will be put off and if you still want to sell electronic books that are in the older Epub 2, then you can still sell those by whatever means you wish. No need to give part of the proceeds to Apple.
Like many people that have dissected the details of iBooks and the requirements for publishing, I am a little disappointed. There is to a certain extent a gatekeeper to the world of publishing, instead of it being the established publishing houses, agents and distribution mechanism of the old way of doing it, there is the technical details of the process as created by Apple.
Not quite the same as seeing a book for sale in an actual book store
There are lots of old school type people that see self publishing as an inferior way of getting a book out there to the reading public. There is something in the kudos of having an actual book sitting on a bookshelf for sale within a bookstore. I can see how that would be appealing, but I think that the businessman has to take over from the creative person, when you’re looking to have a best seller with the operative word being ‘seller’. What it comes down to is the writer or author getting paid for the blood, sweat and tears, time and effort that goes into creating any sort of book. Personally I would rather see the cash from sales of books than getting a warm fuzzy feeling from having a book for sale in a bricks and mortar shop.