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Apple Still Wants to Control the Ebooks You Make with iBooks Author

One of the many disappointing aspect of iBooks Author (besides the expensive hardware needed to run the app and the expensive hardware needed to read the output) was the EULA that Apple included with the app. In what was perhaps the most extreme example of control-freak EULA, Apple required that any ebooks made with iBA could only be sold via iBooks, and you first have to get Apple’s approval to do so.

Naturally this didn’t go over so well with many in digital publishing, so today Apple released a slightly tweaked EULA. They didn’t relax any of the control they have over your products, but they did make it slightly more explicit. Here’s the old language:

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.

Here’s the new language:

If you want to charge a fee for a work that includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author, you may only sell or distribute such work through Apple, and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple. This restriction does not apply to the content of such works when distributed in a form that does not include files in the .ibooks format.

See, the problem with this is that the new language still covers other formats. If you take an iBooks file, and then disassemble it (so you can edit it), when you put it back together the resulting Epub will be "a work that includes files in the .ibooks format generated using iBooks Author".

An Epub made from parts of an iBooks file by definition contains files made with iBA, so that Epub is controlled by Apple just as much as the source iBooks file was. The only change today was that Apple wanted to make it clear how thoroughly they control the ebooks you make. If you were hoping that Apple might loosen their control, well, you don’t know Apple.

P.S. If you disagree with my interpretation, please note that I am using a pessimistic interpretation. This is what I think one of Apple’s lawyers will decide the EULA means should it ever go to court. It is probably wrong on a technical level, but the argument could still be made that my interpretation is valid.


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fjtorres February 3, 2012 um 4:55 pm

The tricky phrase is "includes files".
Essentially, they’re saying that iAuthor can only be used to produce iBook files and any work done with it can only be used for iBooks.
They should stop beating around the legalistic bush and say it straight out.
It’s not as if it would be the first tool with that kind of restriction.

Chad February 3, 2012 um 7:48 pm

Nate – I agree that Apple is often overly controlling in their agreements, so you’re not wrong to be overly pessimistic.

However, I would disagree with your interpretation. Legal intent here is that they are controlling the distribution, so you can’t sell an ibooks file directly on your own website or somewhere else (without their consent). That is different from saying that if you create content using iBA, they control the content (meaning you could not create a derivative work, such as an EPUB). The previous wording was vague enough to allow that. The new wording is less so.

Regardless, this is just one example of many why I do not care to use Apple products – it is too much of a closed system with very little flexibility.

Richard Adin February 4, 2012 um 10:11 am

I’m with Chad. To Steve Jobs, the lesson from 1984 was to not let the government control the masses when Jobs could do it himself. I’ve never bought an Apple product and have no plans to do so. At one time I considered buying an Apple computer until I was pointedly told by Apple that this is how we configure the computers and you take it or leave it. That I needed something more custom made no difference. Apple "knew" best.

Tom February 6, 2012 um 4:54 am

The *.ibooks format is basically an EPUB, but with some non-standardized additional layout/formatting that’s Apple specific. So it is really a badly formatted EPUB book.
Just rename the *.ibooks file to *.epub and you can open it in Adobe Reader.
So what Apple has done is "copy an existing format, made some tiny changes and then declare that it is now 100% Apple proprietary" . I think the correct legal term is "counterfeit".

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