iBooks2 and iBooks Author – What it Means for the Self-Pubbed Writer

So by now you’ve heard of the new update to iBooks and the new iBooks Author. There has been a lot of hand-wringing and complaining on both sides. As I’ve recently published a iBooks formatting guide, here are my thoughts. Now, as of this writing, I’m still trying to download the iBooks Author app so I can’t do a direct comparison (I’m sure it will be easier than using iTunes Connect but your level of control over the look of the document will be the deciding factor). Things you should know – iBooks Author is for Macs running Lion only. No PCs, no Macs with Snow Leopard. This is a bit limiting. Plus, the tool is really designed to create textbooks for the iPad. While it says you export your book to the regular iBookstore, it seems that the final destination for most of these books will be the new iTunes U (a textbook version of the iBookstore). For those of you that have asked me about how to deal with pictures in books, this seems to be the answer for you. A few more thoughts:

Distribution

I’m just not sure how widely these books will be distributed as they only mention the iPad in the app description. This could, theoretically, mean that any book created with the app would be unavailable on the iPod or iPhone; a serious limitation and reason enough to go “direct” through iTunes Connect.

User Agreement

There have been some complaints that Apple is claiming “ownership” of your work. That doesn’t seem to be accurate. Instead, what they are saying is that they want any book that is created by the iBooks Author app sold through iTunes. It does not, any more than using iTunes Connect, preclude you from creating a Smashwords, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble version. The point being is that they want their 30% (that’s why they say you can distribute any free books wherever you want). They don’t want you to format a book using their free app and then sell it on your website. If you want to do that, use one of the free tools out there (delineated in my Apple Formatting Guide). They aren’t trying to stop you from selling different versions elsewhere, just the version you made with their app. Honestly, that sounds reasonable to me.

 We Need an Ark

One of the three hundred comments I read under the iBooks Author app was to the effect, “I downloaded the app 90 seconds ago and I already published a book.” Oh great. That’s terrific. If self-pubbed authors didn’t have enough to worry about, we’re now going to have to deal with a deluge of more mediocre books. At least, in theory. So, if you are working on a manuscript right now, I’d be thinking one thing: I’ve got to edit the hell out of this thing. The difference between a quality self-pubbed book is not its originality or characters. It isn’t the setting or the length. It is editing. Pure and simple. The way to rise above the drek is to make sure people don’t have to email you about the difference between they’re, their, and there.

Conclusion

Is iBooks Author a game-changer? I certainly hope so. I hope it makes it easy to get books up into the iBookstore. I certainly won’t want to go through the iTunes Connect process again if I can help it. One thing that I find encouraging is that there is no mention of a ISBN requirement. This alone would entice me over to using the app. But, I fear, it will take some time to see whether it will be of any use for those of use that rely on words to paint our pictures.