It seems that some people in the media went absolutely crazy over Apple’s iBooks Author EULA (End User License Agreement) while I was away last week, and I just can’t figure out why.
The headlines ranged from Mashable’s “Apple owns your work with iBooks Author” to Huffington Post’s “iBooks Author Requires Selling Original Books Through iBookstore, Says Apple’s Controversial Contract” among many others.
Even some education bloggers got it wrong. Audrey Watters wrote on Hack Education that “it’s fairly clear that this is a bad deal. It’s a bad deal for authors. It’s a bad deal for schools. It’s a bad deal for students.”
The fact is, none of it is true. I’m not sure if they just misunderstood or they jumped on a juicy headline, but here’s what the EULA is all about, as I understand it.
Apple is providing free tools for authors to create books. If you want to give away your book for free, you can do that. For example, if a teacher makes an iBook for students, they can give it to them at no cost and Apple doesn’t care.
If, however, you create an iBook using Apple’s tools and you want to sell it, then you have to use the iBookstore and give Apple its cut.
That sounds fair to me. Use Apple’s tools, sell your product, and give Apple the money it deserves for providing you with a way to make and sell a product.
That doesn’t mean Apple owns the content of the book. You are free to sell the content of the book on Amazon or any other digital bookstore — you just can’t use Apple’s tools to build the book.
You can export all of the text and use Amazon’s tools to create a book. The only thing you will be missing is the interactivity that you built using Apple’s tools. So, use Amazon’s and build in that interactivity again. Apple couldn’t care less.
Apple’s EULA in no way limits authors from selling their material in other marketplaces.
The iBooks Author EULA is very similar to Apple’s App Store SDK licensing agreement. Basically, if you want to build an app and give it away for free, go ahead, you don’t have to pay Apple. If you charge for it, then sell it on the App Store and give Apple its cut.
That doesn’t mean that Apple owns your app. You are free to use Google’s tools and create your app for the Android Market.
The hubbub over the EULA seems like a whole lot of nothing to me, perpetuated by people that didn’t understand what they were reading.