Tag Archives: textbooks

Apple’s iBooks Author, Interactive Textbooks, and All That Jazz

Below is an article that I wrote for MacTalk a few weeks ago. Thought I’d post it up here for posterity. Published without pictures unlike the MacTalk version.

Alternatively, Apple’s latest foray into the big bad world of education (and why it matters).

I’ve now had the whole weekend to think about what Apple’s education event means. Somewhere between the new Star Wars MMO, some epic rounds of Battlefield 3, and something that I’m calling “general internet procrastination”, I’ve thought about the implications for the education sector that this event has wrought.

As a quick recap, Apple released iBooks Author for the Mac alongside a plan to shake up the textbook industry as we know it (also featuring the iPad, iTunes U, and a few big-name publishers). There are those that think Apple don’t care about pros anymore, but Apple’s education event held in New York was proof enough that (and perhaps now more than ever), Apple cares about education.

What happens when you can’t see the forest for the trees?
Before we get into the meat of what all this really means for the future of education as we know it, I’d like to dispel a few misconceptions about iBooks Author that seem to have cropped up.

Firstly, there’s a few people getting caught up in the iBooks Author EULA, and how it apparently (depending on your preferred interpretation) dictates, totalitarian-style, what you can and cannot do with the app. Specifically, people have their underpants in a twist over the fact that books created using iBooks Author can only be sold via Apple; the question is, is that actually so unreasonable? Some say the whole situation draws certain parallels to the similar iOS/Mac app and Xcode equivalent, but others still say that’s different because Xcode doesn’t attempt to dictate what you can and cannot do with output from that app — iBooks Author, on the other hand, does. If we’re being really pedantic, there are even those that liken the iBooks Author EULA terms to what would happen if Adobe said you could only use files originating from Photoshop in a certain way. Those people are pretty far off the mark.

Let’s get one thing clear: Apple isn’t taking your copyright away.

Your content that you put into the app is still your content, you still retain full copyright of whatever material you put into an iBook, and pigs still don’t fly. Frankly, I think the whole “iBooks Author is telling me what I can and can’t do with files I produce using the app” is just a cry from those who are overly concerned about proprietary software and certain usage scenarios. Yes, Apple should probably open up iBooks Author (and iBooks themselves) to an iOS-like enterprise implementation, where books can be distributed internally in a company without having first been published to a public iBookstore. For the moment though, selling your iBooks through the iBookstore just means that you’ll get many more eyeballs on your content than if try to hawk it yourself. It’s also important to note at this point in time that you’re still very much permitted to give your work away for free — Apple aren’t preventing you from sticking your iBooks Author-produced iBook up on your website somewhere and letting it people download it for free. No, I guess the message from Apple here is that iBooks created using iBooks Author are much like iOS apps you create using Xcode: feel free to do other things with your iBook, but if you want to sell it, your best chance of success lies in the iBookstore.

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