Why Apple’s iBooks Author Will Pave The Way For A Writing Renaissance



What do Dr. Seuss, William Faulkner, J.K. Rowling, George Orwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Stephen King have in common? All six were repeatedly rejected when trying to publish their first famous novel. With the announcement of iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, Apple isn’t just giving the education system a much needed boost: they’re attempting to resurrect the dying art of the written word by taking absolute power out of the hands of publishers and putting it in the hands of aspiring writers. We’re on the cusp of a renaissance.

Have you ever tried to get a novel published? It’s a nightmare. You have to write submission letters to over 30 different publishing houses. Sometimes you’re only allowed to mail one at a time. Sometimes you need an agent. Sometimes you don’t. A lot of times your novel will sit for months in a slush pile of submissions, and when it does get read it’s most likely it’ll be by some bleary eyed intern who’s overworked and in no state to judge the merits of your book. Maybe an editor picks up your manuscript and they think it’s good, but if they don’t think they can make any money off of it they’ll send you a quick note saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.” This crappy system is how the literary world is managed.

Enter Apple. iBooks and iBooks Author are two amazing tools that will allow writers to self-publish, while also helping evolve the role of traditional publishers into one more suitable for the 21st century. But they may have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the future, just like the music industry before them.

We all know that iTunes radically transformed the music industry. Labels hate the idea of being controlled by Apple, but in many ways, iTunes and the iPod saved music. Before iTunes, record labels decided who could and couldn’t release an album, and the result was a lack of experimentation. Music didn’t exactly stagnate, but it took longer to change. With the advent of iTunes, Apple put the power of music back into the hands of the people. Rather than being forced to go to the big labels, indie bands could record an album fairly cheaply, post it on iTunes, and then promote their work via the internet. Yes, the profitability of the labels was lowered, but the quality and diversity of music actually increased while giving citizens the opportunity to have their voice heard.

Literature is poised to make the same jump music enjoyed with iTunes because independent writers now have the tools they need to circumvent publishing houses if they so choose.

But the problem of publishing houses isn’t going to change overnight. Publishing houses will still throw money behind already popular writers and celebrities to ensure profitability, at the expense of up-and-coming writers doing more daring work. What iBooks Author changes is that aspiring writers no longer have to rely on publishers in order to see their work in print, or to get that initial push of momentum going that will get the publishers taking notice.

Not that this cuts publishers out entirely. They’ll still be needed, but they won’t be the end-of-line. Apple’s new tool is cheap and easy to use, which gives anyone with access to a Mac the ability to write a book, publish it to iBook and then promote it themselves. Writers will be able to gain almost immediate fulfillment in seeing their words in print and immediately have an avenue to promote their own work.

Detractors might say that self-publishing has been around for years now and we have yet to see the scale tip in its favor. While it is true that companies like Amazon and even Apple have allowed writers to self-publish their work, one thing that has been missing in self-publishing is a great tool. Apple’s now given it to us.

What I think we’ll see over the next 10 years is a shift away from publishers as the key holders to the literary world to a role where they are instead the best promoters of truly astounding work. Publishing revenues will go down, but their profitability should be somewhat consistent or better than what it is now. Rather than sifting through the slush pile, publishers can swim in the iBookstore and search for independent authors who’s works aren’t’ garnering the attention they deserve. Publishers’ roles will change to something more akin to a promoter who gets your book to the top of stack.

Perhaps I’m blowing this whole thing out of proportion, but I think Apple’s announcement today at the Guggenheim may be one of the most important days not just in the company’s history, but in the history of publishing. But even if that’s just hyperbole and bombast, one thing’s for sure: we need to make it easier to writers to reach their audiences. America doesn’t need another John Kennedy O’Toole, who killed himself in despair of how difficult it was to publish his masterpiece, A Confederacy of Dunces. America’s literary talent needs better platforms for creatives to express and promote their work, and Apple just gave them one.

  • SalishSeaSam

    Is this a PR blurb from Apple or just witty hyperbole? Come on! There’s already plenty of tools out there for aspiring and perspiring authors. I welcome any ease-of-use tool that Apple brings us, but a little objectivity, please…

  • Greg Baines

    I agree. There has been self publishing for decades (which does cost a little money, but it’s very cheap). And for years there have been tools for authors to upload work. Amazon is still the best, and allows you to upload for ereaders which is still the best way to read a book.

    A renaissance would be a free way to market your work. Marketing is the big deal, that’s the thing that makes or breaks artists now, not being able to get it to people, but being able to generate an audience. In that sense, publishing companies will always be very powerful. They will just have to focus more on marketing and less on physical publishing.

    The Apple announcement is welcome, but not revolutionary. Don’t get caught up in marketing spin.

  • Greg Baines

    It sounds like this is only available in the US, form the post, is that the case?

    I have to say despite my thoughts below, in education it will make a big impact. I don’t think it will make a big impact for traditional authors. Publishing companies have always been used for their marketing reach, not the physical publishing of work. It could be a significant announcement for teachers.

  • Sean C.

    I welcome this creator, but I think it is just wrong that they can control where you can market it. At least with the people who release albums on iTunes they also have them on Amazon and Zune (LOL) and other sites, but with this creator you are limited to just Apple. If this software is available on windows and would let me also market my book for Kindles and Nooks not just iPads and iPhones I would gladly use this, but otherwise I think using other software to create my ebooks and market them on more than one platform would be better.

    The flaw with what apple is trying to do here is control what you can do with something that you own 100%. A 30% cut to apple is not bad concerning you might get only that much yourself with a publisher, but I would prefer to have more freedom. That is where Apple is losing me when I decide I want to grow a little further and I hit more and more of their walls.

  • jorge andres fernandez avalos

    just like myspace did with the unknown musicians!!!

  • Alfons Grabher

    “swim in the iBookstore” pretty much nails it, my iPhone app sunk in with 600,000 other apps (disappeared, so to speak, immediately) and my books proof the theory of the “long tail” of amazon. Contrariwise, if you have a publisher and he is friends with the chief in editor at the new york times, then you can sell “whatever” big time and lean back. Or roll up your sleeves like Tim Ferriss and work 24/7 to market your stuff yourself (and tell everyone you’re doing only 4h/week ;-)

    Writing and publishing is one kind of a job, sales and marketing a completely different one.

  • Jake Brosy

    iBooks 2 is not earth-shattering. With a tiny bit of ingenuity I have published several books in the iBookstore.

    The new tools – and the divergence from the ePub standard – will allow authors to submit some (potentially) good books to the iBookstore. However, as with CreateSpace/KDP and the other self-publishing platforms, most of what we will see will be poorly-written, poorly-formatted works that should have never been published.

    A badly formatted book with poor grammar, misspelled words, run-on and fragmented sentences is not a boon to the collective knowledge of the human race. It simply adds to the detritus.

  • vierkant

    Feel entitled much, lately? How is this different than any other platform in the world? Someone creates tools to do something and those using them have to abide by certain terms, restrictions or licensing models. If someone uses MS tools to write a Window’s app, why not complain how it doesn’t run on Macs?

    Feel free to develop and publish your own tools, put them out there for free and let anyone do anything they want with them that totally cuts you out of the picture — have at it, man.

  • vierkant

    The new textbook sections and textbooks themselves only show up in the US iTunes Store at the moment. But the Author app is available in all the Mac App Stores (at least it is in the UK, I donwnloaded mine last night).

  • vierkant

    And how many people wrote or created books or works of art during the original “Renaissance”? Very few. Even fewer bought the books. They were beyond the means of 99.99% of people for centuries. You were lucky if you had one book in your village and you could read it. And typesetting, I bet that was free, too?

    On the contrary, I think you have Renaissance and Revolution reversed. A Renaissance is a rebirth — something grows from it, often slowly. A Revolution, by definition, is a quick overthrow or turnaround overnight!

    Like you said, Marketing is the big make-it-or-break it deal. Now there are tools out there that anyone can use to get stuff out there in front of people. I never considered faffing about with making an eBook and trying to fiddle about with different kinds of tools… but I used to create interactive CD-ROMs for education back in the day, and now I am very excited about getting back into projects using this tool and Apple’s publishing platform.

    Yes, there has been self-publishing for decades, but it was a case of being dedicated to see it all through despite the tools available. Now it’s more like being able to start with any inspiration and not being held back. Now, that’s a Renaissance. I am already at work on a project that I began last year that was starting to be little more than a glorified PDF.

  • Al

    I think you’ve missed the point a little. Yes, Apple can set whatever terms they damn well please. The complaint is they’re taking it too far. It is VERY restrictive. What if this same restriction applied to other Apple products?

    Apple produces GarageBand. Could they say that any music made with it must be sold via iTunes? Yes. Should they? No.

    Apple produces Pages. Could they say that any novels written with it must be sold via iBooks? Yes. Should they? No.

    And so on and so forth.

  • Charlie Potatoes

    It is not the publishers. 
    It is the kickbacks to Principals, Superintendents and School Boards that is the problem.  It is exactly analogous to the self serving IT managers that created the Windows corporate world. Many companies have lost billions to this model of computing. The school systems are doing the same but with the peoples money.

  • Peter Donker

    I hope this dies a quick death … but I’m not holding my breath. Apple comes out with a proprietary format which can only be sold through its store. That is a clear attempt to corner the market to one’s own advantage. So where it makes it appear to the outside world it is a benevolent player in publishing wishing to help students, it is in fact trying to become the sole textbook distributer. Again an example of corporate greed.

    What is ironic is that Microsoft has been bashed time and again about their Office proprietary formats. And now we just sit and watch Apple corner the textbook market? I hope we will see antitrust suits being brought to Apple as they were to MS at the time.

  • KeirThomas

    Buster, I write computer books for a living (and I blog here on Cult of Mac too!).

    Apple isn’t taking power out of publishers hands and putting it into the hands of authors. Apple is grabbing the power for themselves by creating proprietary tools and proprietary channels. You can only publish the work created using their new software via Apple’s various channels. You can’t take the files and use them elsewhere.

    So yesterday’s announcement is nothing like the creation of the word processor. This is the creation of a very specific tool that fills a very specific and proprietary niche. Actually, it’s like any of the other proprietary technical authoring packages that most people haven’t heard of, because they have a very specific function that most of us don’t need.  

    To be honest, it’d been more honourable of Apple to release an iBook creator software that published any file format for any sales channel. They would have had to charge for it but any decent artist realises that, if they want to use a computer, the purchase of certain software packages are necessary for their craft (unless they go open source). If the iBook creator was priced like Pages it wouldn’t break the bank either. 

  • snookasnoo

    Amazon has been doing this for some time.

  • snookasnoo

    Amazon does the same thing.  I’m sure you are just as outraged.  Even more so since Amazon has much more of a lock on the market.

  • snookasnoo

    Amazon has been doing this for some time.  Are you just as outraged?

  • Miguel V Ortiz

    When is everyone going to realize that Apple does not support open source…..if open source is what you want then go with Adobe,Microsoft,ect…

    End to End Intergration.

  • Kevin Daniels

    If the posters on here do not like what Apple is doing, then there are many other programs that you can buy. If you don’t like the agreement from Apple about putting your book only on iBook, then don’t sign it and use another program !! No one is forcing you to use Apple’s program !!! If you already downloaded the App then ask for you FREE money back. LOL

  • csman

    Apple’s strategy is that every single student, at least in North America, will drop their forever lasting paper textbooks and computers and grab a $500 device (maybe cheaper in the future) to purchase or rent the same content with an interactive and polished interface.

    This is very good for Apple, I don’t know how good it is for students. Personally, I love my hardcover textbooks full with exercises. I can quickly access them from my personal library.

    Apple is exceedingly successful at marketing, but it’s not always for the benefit of their customers.

  • Chuck Ivy

    I can read Kindle files on my iPhone, my Mac, any web browser AND my Kindle. I can only run iBooks 2 on my iPhone…

  • Artoo

    Un-freaking belivable!!!

    Apple just gave us the ability to make and publish an interactive book, which works on the world’s best and most popular tablet FOR FREE!

    And people are still whining about it?

    Fine, whine and complain, stick to the old ways. Let forward-thinking people use it to create some great things.

    Watch as a surge of new authors makes money and you wonder why you didn’t get in early. Watch as Apple gets richer in the process… which is a good thing, specially if you own shares…