You Must Sell Your iBooks In The iBookstore And Apple Gets A 30% Cut

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iBooks Author

Following the release of Apple’s self-publishing tool for the Mac today, iBooks Author, it’s clear that Apple wants to change the way books are created and published online. Specifically, Apple wants to bolster its own iBookstore with the best content, and authors will have to agree with that mission whether they want to or not. If you want to make money, it’s the iBookstore or the highway.

Some interesting findings in the end-user license agreement (EULA) for the free iBooks Author app reveal Apple’s ‘walled garden’ approach played out in yet another area of its business. Dan Wineman points to the “About” section of iBooks Author and the particularly detailed EULA that publishers must agree to when exporting iBooks for the iPad.

Not only does Apple get a 30% cut of all iBooks sold in the iBookstore, but publishers aren’t allowed to sell their books anywhere else. If you make your book in iBooks Author, you must sell it in the iBookstore or give it away for free somewhere else. You can only make a profit under Apple’s control, and your iBook can be pulled from the store at Apple’s discretion or not even approved in the first place.

Here’s the legal jargon:

IMPORTANT NOTE:
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.

B. Distribution of your Work. As a condition of this License and provided you are in compliance with its terms, your Work may be distributed as follows:

(i) if your Work is provided for free (at no charge), you may distribute the Work by any available means;

(ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.

Wineman explains this policy with a striking analogy:

It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented.

For a free tool that’s supposed to revolutionize modern education, Apple seems to be approaching iBooks in the same way it did the App Store. Either you’re in, or you’re out. Only time will tell if that approach plays out in Apple’s favor.