Yesterday, Apple announced iBooks Author, a new Mac app that lets people create and distribute ebooks for the iPad. Immediately following the gleeful fanboygasms came the equally predictable backlash, like this piece in ZDNet that called the app’s end-user license agreement (EULA) “mind-bogglingly greedy and evil.”
This reaction confuses me, because iBooks Author’s EULA says exactly what I expected it to say, namely that you can’t sell the books you make with iBooks Author through any distributor except Apple.
Why is this even a surprise? For one thing, iBooks Author is free. It’s obviously intended to ease creation of content for sale through iTunes, because Apple makes a ton of money on those content sales. Why would they make a free tool that would let users create content for other platforms? Why is not doing so “greedy” and “evil”?
On a more practical level, it’s frankly not that big a deal. If you’re formatting a traditional book (i.e. only words), then the process should mostly involve cutting and pasting those words from your .doc file. You will have to format your ePubs for other distributors separately, which is a drag mostly because ePub-formatting programs suck (when we publish books here at C4, we use Smashwords; it’s not perfect but it is better and easier than other formatting and publishing options we’ve tried).
So yes, Apple has not given you a free, easy, universal ePub creator. But iBooks Author isn’t geared toward creating plain old ePubs anyway, it’s specifically geared toward creating “Multi-Touch books for iPad.” In other words, this sort of thing. Because iBooks Author simplifies the formatting process, the rich-media interactive ebooks you make with it will almost certainly only work on an iPad. Even if you could export them to universal ePubs, they would look like garbage on all other devices.
Apple won’t own your copyright, your content, or the versions you make for all other platforms. You’re free to use that content however you please, even according to that reactionary ZDNet writer’s reading of the EULA. Claims that “only Apple can ever publish your work” are simply not true.
So everybody please calm down about this EULA. It’s not nearly as greedy or evil as they’d have you believe.
Recently, Apple’s been feeling its oats, and Steve Jobs has been picking fights with absolutely everybody, even bloggers who just want a portable porn pad. Here’s a breakdown of the two biggest Apple fights out there.
Apple v. Amazon
First there was terror. When the iPad was announced, Jeff Bezos messed his cargo shorts when he heard Apple was supporting both ePub and the Agency model. He promptly caved and let publishers walk all over him—although he did it, of course, with a minimum of maturity, because that’s how he rolls. But Bezos (not to mention publishers) got proper snookered by the sneaky Jobs.
Despite all the furor over Apple’s embrace of the agency model (which might not even be legal in countries where they regulate their corporations), the iPad isn’t selling many iBooks. Penguin claims to be leading the pack (you know, if you don’t count free Gutenberg books, which are “selling” twice as much as Penguin). But let’s not forget that iBooks aren’t very popular, in the scheme of iPad apps—in fact, Feedbooks distributes more books.
If the iPad does start selling tons of iBooks, well, publishers are screwed then, too. Apple can evidently force prices down to $9.99 if it feels like, and in April 2011, they can simply rescind the agency model agreement. Ha!
All this has led to, shall we say, some tension in the publishing industry. Publishers are choosing up sides, and even unleashing their wrath on unsuspecting authors who want to publish ebooks. Then there are the obligatory rumors that Kindle’s grip on the market is slipping, but since there’s a Kindle app for the iPad (not to mention iPhone and soon Android) I don’t understand how Apple will ever win a book fight.
And by the way, Google’s launching its own ebookstore, which I’m guessing and hoping will use Adobe ePub formatting. Meaning neither Apple nor Amazon customers will be able to read Google ebooks. Because Apple hates Adobe, too! Why? Well, more on that after the jump… …
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- Basically, nobody wants to shut up about the new Apple tablet (supposedlydubbed the iPad–consider it nominated for this week’s dumbest new ereader name award). It’s slated to be revealed today, so I’m not going to bother parsing out the rumors. This one bit about pricing strategies and the coming battle between Apple and Amazon is interesting though. Not sure where B&N is in all this. I guess they probably shouldn’t have f-ed up the Nook launch so badly. Perhaps they are waiting for a boost from Apple? If you’re foolishish enough to get a first generation iPad (thus ignoring Apple’s track record of vastly superior second gen devices), here are some other fun uses for it.
- It looks like Asus’s EeeReader (or are they Asustek?) will have two models. Acer’s got one running Chrome. Then there’s Mustek. And the Lenovo Tianji. And Endless Ideas has a WiFi BeBook Neo. There’s the Oppo Enjoy (dumbest name: winner). Copia is still hanging around. Even Nintendo is getting in the fray, selling romance novels on their DS. Man, the market is officially awash.
- Amazon has quietly laxed their DRM policies. So quietly that hardly anyone has noticed. In what could be an enourmous shift, Apple will allow iTunes users to store libraries in the cloud, rather than their harddrives (hopefully it doesn’t require a .Mac subscription). Besides fighting with China, Google is also in a tiff with its old buddy Apple. This may lead to Apple dumping Google integration from their devices and adopting Bing, which is of course owned by–Mac geeks are fainting left and right over this, I’m sure–the evil Microsoft. Regardless of Google’s early success (maybe) with Android’s apps, Apple is still the undisputed ruler of App-land.
- It’s kinda old news, but apparently colleges are being sued for using ereaders in classrooms because blind students can’t use them. How using a braille edition to supplement a Kindle (which reads books–poorly–out loud) is less fair than if the other students use deadtree, I do not understand. It won’t help the blind, but if you’ve no backlight on your ereader and can’t figure out how to turn on your lamp, try this dongle. This Boogie Board doodle toy isn’t an ereader (and probably isn’t much use to anyone not a basketball coach) but it does seem pretty cool, and uses no power at that.
- We’ll be posting on Friday about some of the many changes we have planned for our second year. There’s a lot of good stuff planned, and we’ll be getting bigger and better as time goes on. Check back Friday for that.
- I really like this comic explaining proper semicolon use; there’s also one for the apostrophe. Also at The Oatmeal, the best Twilight review I’ve yet read (yes, I read the books). Everyone in this school district should be given a lobotomy. And Scholastic Surprise! should chill on this one and use their noggins. Finally, Farmville is stupid (no link, just spouting the truth).
Here’s our last links update of the decade. First though, we’ve updated our eReader Comparison page as well as our Best Ways to Get eBooks, so check them out. Both will be seeing quite a few more updates in the coming weeks and months as much is happening with ereaders and ebook sellers. In fact, we’ve got a lot of changes planned for C4 in the near future as well; we’ll be posting on many of them at some point in January. Also, be sure to check out our Best Books of 2009 series if you haven’t already. We’ll be continuing the series through January.
- Kindles (and their attached ebooks) apparently sold like hotcakes this Christmas (though we can’t be sure), while the Nook continues its snaggy, stumbling launch. However, hackers finally cracked the Kindle DRM. It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon responds. Despite purchasing Kobo neé Shortcovers, Borders maintains they’re not working on a ereader device of its own. I’m with Nico on their days being numbered, though I would like to see a solid all platform ebook store contend with the bigger boys. Barnes & Noble, on the other hand, has begun selling readers besides the Nook: the JetBook and the Foxit eSlick.
- More Apple rumors this week, this time that they will be producing a dedicated reader called the iSlate that differs from they long-rumored tablet. Seems convincing, but I wouldn’t trust this one just yet. Paradigm Shift announced a couple of color ereaders, though the screens look to be LCD, which I don’t think will win the day. Asus (of netbook fame) has a rumored ereader/tablet on the horizon, and it gets this week’s Stupidest eReader Name Award for calling it the EeeReader. Finally, hot on Asus’s heels, Lenovo wants in too (hopefully they come up with the dumbest name yet).
- A library in Oregon has announced plans to lend out ereaders. Hopefully this proves successful and this sort of thing takes off. Interead, makeres of COOL-er ereaders, partnered with OverDrive (who make very solid library software) to expand their ebook store. As you may have heard, there was a big MediaBistro ebook summit recently. Of all places, Vanity Fair has a nice breakdown of the proceedings. Now you can read Sesame Street, Curious George, and Veggie Tales stories on your iPhone, and record your reading for your children to replay later. A Wallace & Gromit ebook sold half a million downloads on the Apple App Store, which is impressive indeed.
- Apparently HP’s new facial recognition PCs are colorblind (in the unacceptable, can’t see black people way). Don’t feed sea turtles brussels sprouts unless you want their farts to mess up your aquarium. I know I’ve posted to it before, but I really like this isn’t happiness.
- This weeks video is an oldie-but-goodie:
Before we get to the links, a little site promotion: I was Christmas shopping for books today and I wanted to get a mystery novel for my grandfather. Where did I look? Why the C4 Book Reviews section of course. Give it another peek, maybe you’ll find some gift ideas of your own. Also, check out our Best Books of 2009 feature, which will be updated Mondays through January. Well, enough of that…
- I walked by a SonyStyle store the other day, and I have to admit they’re doing a good job of pushing their Readers in brick and mortar stores (I’ve also seen them in Best Buy stores amongst others as well). And while they have a decent selection of models, I’m not sure these themed Readers are quite necessary. In other ereader news, the Aiptek Storybook inColor is pretty neato looking, though I still don’t think an LCD ereader is ever going to really fly. The Aluratek Libre has a nice pricetag, but the same LCD concern still applies. (Before you poo-poo me, electronic ink–in our opinion–really does make a huge difference. Here are my initial impressions of the tech from last spring.)
- The COOL-ER is getting a hardware upgrade, making it marginally cool-er in the eyes of the other wallflower ereaders. And there’s lots of Applet Tablet rumors floating around this week, but I’m not going to link to any, beacause I’m sick of them. We’ll discuss an Apple Tablet and its secondary ereader abilites only when (if) it actually gets announced. Here’s a review of the Sungale Cyberus, which also doesn’t look all that impressive.
- Amazon’s Jeff Bezos took a weird shot at the Nook’s sharing feature. While he’s right that it’s definitely not ideal, it’s a lot more than Kindle’s DRM allows. There’s also a rumor afloat that Amazon, in their benevolent hearts, lose $2 per ebook. The logic on this seems fuzzy at best, and I don’t buy it one bit. Also on the list of things that weren’t well enough thought through, Simon & Schuster will be holding their ebook releases until 4 months after hardcovers go on sale. Good plan guys! HarperCollins has a similar plan, and a similarly dumb explanation. Here’s a nice counterpoint.
- I came across a lot of cool stuff around the web this week. The bookish part of me finds something alluring about Altered Books‘ poetry. I also really like the experiment going on over at One Sentence. The NH part of me really likes this redneck twinkle light display. And this animation by Pascal Campion is pretty mesmerizing.
So after taking last Wednesday off for haiku, we’re back with two weeks’ worth of scuttlebutt:
- Creative (maker of the iPod’s poor, homely, and ignored cousin) threw their hat into the ring with the Zii Mediabook. I’d like to go on the record as saying this is an even dumber name than Nook or Alex. Speaking of, the makers of the Alex have sued Barnes & Noble over the Nook’s dual screen design. Also with dual screens, I can’t decide if the Entourage Edge looks cool or crappy, but I’m leaning toward crappy.
- The inexpensive Jetbook Lite is available now (thanks to reader Ben for the heads up). And on the horizon, ASUS wants in the ereader game after all their netbook success. And so does Bridgestone, after all their tire success? It’s bendy, which is cool. Apparently there are some snazzy new E-Ink processor chips in the pipeline, so hopefully we’ll seem even more creative new tech soon. Lots of ereader hype this selling season, might we finally be at the verge of the Great eReader Adoption?
- Up for some light reading? How about an ebook about mail order Russian brides? These ebook “covers” are so cheesy they’re funny. I find the idea of a cloud library pretty intriguing. And I’m definitely in favor of ebook happy hour, too bad they only serve well books.
- Outside of ebooks, a new Beatles b-side has been discovered, as has the creepiest thing I’ve seen–except for maybe Wii Baby and Me–in a long while: a ventriloquist choir singing “Yesterday.”
Sorry for the lapse last week. Got a little catch-up to do this week now.
(You might have seen the outline for this post pop up in your RSS feed last week; my apologies for the oversight.)
A couple of weeks ago, I summarized new and recent ereader additions. This week, let’s look forward at some upcoming devices. If there’s a trend emerging, it’s that touchscreens and 3G access are quickly becoming standard features, which is great news.
A quick note before we start: take the information here with a grain of salt. I’ve tried to cite my sources when possible, but even cited information should be considered rumor until these devices actually come out.
The Plastic Logic Whatzamawhoozit
Even though it doesn’t have a name yet, this is the device I’m most excited about. Even the earliest videos of the PL in action (this one was posted a year ago) showed a slick touchscreen with no contrast compromise and a sleek form factor.
Barnes & Noble hopped on as the primary book provider, and AT&T’s involvement combined with the large screen suggests newspapers will be a big target.
It’ll be crucial to see exactly how the touchscreen works. Is it fast? Is the contrast still as good as it looks? Can you write freehand on it? If this video features the same screen used in the ereader, it looks pretty much unbreakable, so that’s nice.
The other big question is price. Some have reported that the PL will be competitive with the Kindle, which we’re hoping means a $300 price point. Realistically, I think that’s a little too good to be true. I’m guessing closer to $500, but I’d be happy to be wrong. I also heard a rumor about a smaller size somewhere, but I can’t find any evidence of that now.
Last, B&N is reportedly developing “their own flavor” of ePub for the PL. I’m not sure why. Incompatibility kind of defeats the purpose of using a universal file format.
Sign up for Plastic Logic updates at their website.
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I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks recently. They oprovide a great way to multitask (at work, the gym, driving) while plowing through some new books. Paying hardcover prices on iTunes for audiobooks seems a little rediculous to me, especially seeeing how more or less useless audiobooks are once you’ve finished them. That is, if its not a book you plan to re-enjoy soon, there’s little it can do besides waste space. Revisiting sections and searching for quotesor passages is more cumbersome than it is worth.
So I though about getting into a subscription based audiobook program to keep up with newer books, but then I decided just to start borrowing audiobooks from the library and ripping them to my computer. In the meantime, I began getting audiobooks from a site called LibriVox, where volunteers upload recordings of readings from public domain books. I was immediately (and still am a little) astounded at the high quality of the readings and recordings. They are pleasant and professional. They are also free. …
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