About Apple’s iBooks Author EULA

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.

  • Here, here!!!

  • Astifora

    The most important fact being any books that you create in iBooks Author will only work with iBooks on the iPhone, iPod, and iPad anyway. So why would you want to distribute a book that only works with iBooks in a different marketplace.

    • You know what people are really bitching about, right? The fact that they can’t just use the tools and then sell directly from their websites. Mean ol’ Apple has to ruin everything by taking a cut…

  • Anonymous


  • I think the mistake everyone has made is comparing iBooks Author to something like Word.  You buy Word as a tool (much like a hammer) and make things with it.  Microsoft sells Word; that’s where they get their money.

    What’s going with iBooks is this.  Apple announces iBooks 2 and a brand new interactive textbook format, and textbook market with a special page on the iTunes store. Anyone who wants to sell a book there can (subject to the 30/70 split).  One question remains, “What does the file format look like and how do I create these new textbooks?” Apple has an answer, “Oh, download this free tool from us that helps you create those books; it’s called iBooks Author.”  That’s a different concept. (And the fact that I can export books to other formats such as PDF or give them away via email is Apple just being nice to me.)

  • Anonymous

    It will prove itself or not on its own merits, just like other Apple products. Most have been winners; a few, not so much.

  • Did anyone complaining about iBooks Author make equally loud noises when Amazon released specifications for the first Kindle? Because last time I looked, that line of devices won’t read ePubs, and Mobi sure ain’t an open standard, either.

    • There are several reasons I won’t publish on Amazon, though the main part of which is their licensing agreement and their remit rate (70% for folks like me).  Apple has muddied the water in trying to protect their work of art.  I agree that Apple is trying to protect their own IP, but the way the EULA is worded is a bit vague.  The word “Work” isn’t adequately defined and the ability to give the “Work” away for free outside of Apple’s ecosystem is odd, why would they allow their IP be shared on different platforms.  If you’ve looked at the IBooks Author “epub” file, you’ll find that it’s not “epub” at all, but a proprietary XML format that’s designed for multi-touch devices, it’s this that I believe Apple is trying to protect in their poorly worded EULA.

      I’ve also played with Kindle and Mobi (it’s been 2 years since I looked at Mobi though, back then it was horrible), from my playing with epub, it’s still as bad, especially in the realm of large tables.

      • I agree the iBooks Author EULA needs clarification, but a lot of the poutrage I’m hearing about the issues involved is myopic and conveniently selective.

  • It’s part internet sensationalizing with the headlines, and part “I want everything for free and be able to do whatever I want” by a few vocal tech sites.

    The rest of the complaining is by people who haven’t the slightest clue about any of this at all and are just reacting to the sensationalistic headlines previously mentioned.

  • The problem is that the EULA is ambiguous when it comes to exactly what the word “Work” means. The EULA can be read that anything created with iBooks Author either (a) has to be sold through iBooks 2 or (b) given away for free, EVEN IF Apple’s proprietary extensions to epub that provide interactivity are stripped away. So you may not be able to strip out interactivity and sell a plain vanilla epub or .mobi file elsewhere. That’s a problem, and it really is Apple overstepping its bounds. 

    I agree, Jim, that your interpretation is harmless and within Apple’s right, but unfortunately the EULA is not that cut and dry. There’s an interesting discussion going on about this here: http://www.thepassivevoice.com/01/2012/is-apples-dismal-ibooks-author-software-license-even-enforceable/#commentsThe comments are more interesting than the article itself. 

    • So instead of people choosing a tool that already exports a standardized ePub file, they want to complain they can’t reverse engineer Apple’s bastard ePub-ish output and use that instead? Man, you guys must be hurting for decent tools…

      • David Forbes

        No. The problem is that Apple seems to be claiming the right to The Work, which means even if you “build it twice,” you don’t have the right to sell it ANYWHERE ELSE. You have to give it away except for the iBooks 2 store. That may not be correct, but the EULA is vague and that’s what’s worrying people.

        For the record, I own lots of Apple stock, have tons of devices, have four novels on the iBookstore, one of which I published myself through iTunes Connect. I love Apple. But I’m not going to use this tool until this has been clarified.

        • I didn’t come to that conclusion, and it seems fairly obvious to Jim as well. But I guess Apple could add a couple extra words to make it unmistakeable.

        • Anonymous

          No, Apple is not claiming any rights on the work. That is clear. “Work” is a term of art in publishing. We know what it is. Apple is not claiming that. The copyright of the original work is not at all in question. All we are talking about is licensing the tool. 

          Here is how it works: if you use iBooks Author to generate a publishable copy of your work, you agree to give that publishable copy away for free or sell it through iBookstore. PERIOD.

    • Anonymous

      No, it is not ambiguous. It is very clear: the output of the iBooks Author tool can be given away for free or it can be sold through Apple. Period. Very, very clear.

      The thing a lot of people are missing is you don’t WRITE your book in iBooks Author. It is a production tool. You write in Pages (or similar) and then you go from Pages to iBooks Author, InDesign, and whatever your favorite ePub generator is. Then you will have your original Pages document plus 3 production versions of your work: iBook, PDF/print, and ePub.

  • If you want to make a game for the PS3 you don’t expect to do so with XBOX 360 tools …and you certainly don’t expect MS to provide that capability. If you want to build once and run everywhere use a commercial ePub solution. It’ll still work on the iPad (minus several features and that “built for this device” feeling) but you can sell wherever the hell you want. 

    Wah, you might have to build something twice. 

    Nice post Jim.

  • Player_16

    But Apple gave me this FREE tool to write books so I should be allowed to sell my prose on ANY site, by ANY means I choose; using my graphic/writing talents. I believe I earned it. I’m not doing this for FREE! I bought MS Word and MS don’t stick me. Even when I publish my licensed Adobe illustrations and Getty images, I’m not being asked to front up. I mean come on Apple, you’re just gouging us… like Ed Bott (ZDNet) says Apple is being ‘mindbogglingly greedy’!


  • NielsK

    And now replace iBooks Author with Xcode (and I’m talking Mac applications)

    • And you’ll sound crazier, because Apple hasn’t done that. You’d be complaining about something Apple might theoretically, maybe, someday, could do, but likely won’t.

  • Where are all the foaming-at-the-mouth capitalism acolytes praising Apple for making money?

    Right on Jim, Apple can do what they want when they make the software.

  • Anonymous

    The problem here is that all technical/IT type people think they know everything about everything. They don’t know a damn thing about publishing. So they should STFU.

    What Apple is providing is the most author-friendly publishing agreement known to man. A traditional publisher would just take your whole book. They would not even generate a printed copy until they had the rights to your whole book. Copyright and everything. They will do whatever they please with it. I write books for IDG Worldwide and they released books that were made from parts of a couple of my books and did not even tell me about it, let alone pay me for it.

    Microsoft Word is a stupid analogy. No, Microsoft does not demand 30% of the sale price of the output of Word, but Microsoft also does not offer to sell your Word files and give you 70% of the price. DUH. Also, Word is hundreds of dollars, and iBooks Author is free.

  • The lesson is, if you are not a lawyer. Do not attempt to interpret legalese while wearing a tinfoil hat.

  • Anonymous

    The biggest mistake people are making is in thinking this is an ePub tool. It isn’t. It can’t import other ePubs and it can’t export ePubs (it’s kinda sorta looks like ePub but isn’t really.)

    This is like writing iOS apps in XCode. Tool is free, but if you want to sell it you have to sell via App Store. With one additional benefit – if you want to give it away free you can, and other people can load it without going through Apple.

    Apple doesn’t claim any rights on your code when writing apps, they aren’t going to claim any rights on your iBooks when you right those either.

  • This is truly despicable if any other company mandated that you sell through them any work you created with their tools like Word docs, Adobe artwork or videos, etc. Defending this policy is truly pathetic!