Following this morning’s launch of iBooks Author, there’s a growing rumble of anger over a term in the software’s End User Licence Agreement (EULA) which restricts how resulting ebooks can be sold.
Books produced by iBooks Author can be distributed for free on any platform, but can only be sold outside the iBooks store by entering into a financial arrangement with Apple. Would-be authors are crying foul at this egregious rights-grab. “How dare Apple restrict what people do with this awesome software?!” they cry.
To which the only reasonable reply is “they dare because they’re Apple.”
Apple has released iBooks Author for free with one goal — to get more books into the iBooks store. By taking a cut from all of the paid-for books produced in that way, they stand to make more than enough money to justify giving away the tools involved. And so they’ve decided to insert a clause making sure that they’ll get a cut from every paid-through book their software helps produce. Here it is…
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.
This is not how the Internet is supposed to work. The Internet is all about giving away amazing tools for free and then maybe figuring out a way to monitize the fruits of that generosity later. Dammit, doesn’t Apple realise that we’re entitled to download software for free and then to profit from that software however we see fit? If we want to publish on Apple’s platform and give them a cut, we will. But if we’d rather sell through a rival platform then that’s our right as citizens of the Intenret. By curbing those rights, Apple is essentially breaching our fundamental Internet human rights.
Except Apple isn’t the Internet. It’s Apple: a company that has made billions and billions of dollars, despite — or perhaps because of — tightly dictating what people can do on and with its products. They have done this with no law being passed insisting that we all buy iPads and iPods, nor are they using predatory pricing to flood the market with their hardware so we have no other choice but to use it. In fact, they’ve gone out of their way to price their products out of reach from all but the wealthiest consumers, and at every stage they have frustrated content producers with their obnoxious rules and regulations. And yet still we buy their stuff by the bucketload.
And so it will be with iBooks Author. At some point, once they’ve attracted a critical mass of new content into their iBooks store, the company will probably relax their EULA restrictions, like they did with DRM in the iTunes store.
But until then, there are more than welcome to boycott Apple’s awesome new free software if we don’t like it. Apple doesn’t have a monopoly over either ebook creation, ebook distribution or ebook reading. Not even close. There are a hundred other ways to produce ebooks, and there are a half dozen other platforms on which to sell them. Pick one.
But we won’t. We’ll pick Apple, and we’ll like it. Because this is Apple, and that’s what we do.