There’s been a lot of talk about the licensing terms of iBook Author today. Apple’s new application for creating e-books is cheap, but books created with it can only be distributed through the App Store unless they are free. Gus Mueller wonders about the precedent this sets for Apple’s other tools:
I really hope Xcode doesn’t ship with the same restrictions some day. “Binaries created through Xcode can only be sold through the App Store, and you can’t charge more than $15.99”.
Apple is free to distribute its tools under any terms that it likes, what I am pondering is what authors should do.
As an author, I can say that this doesn’t seem fundamentally different from signing a contract with a publisher. If Publisher A agrees to publish my book, that usually means I can’t also let Publisher B publish it as well. When you use iBooks Author, Apple is your publisher. If you want to give it away for free, that’s fine, but you’re not going to be able to sell a Kindle version published using Apple’s tools.
That doesn’t strike me as horribly unreasonable. The big difference, though, is that if Publisher A publishes my book, it can be sold in any bookstore, online or offline. In the new electronic world, choosing a certain publisher means that you are also choosing only one channel of distribution. If you choose iBooks, you’re also constrained in terms of devices. There are Kindle apps for most platforms, but iBooks is iOS only. It’ll be interesting to see if going with iBooks turns out to be a better economic proposition for authors, or more precisely, to see which authors benefit from going with iBooks rather than Kindle.
It’s a lot to think about, in any case.