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Apple gets back into the education market.
January 19, 2012 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Possibly inspired by Al Gore, Apple announces a new iTunes U app, textbooks for iBooks 2.0, and iBooks Author, so you can create your own interactive books.
posted by empath (184 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now that is thinking outside the lockbox!
posted by phirleh at 9:29 AM on January 19, 2012


I can't wait to get home, download iBooks Author, pour myself a beer, and get started on making some Hodgmanian factu-madness.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:31 AM on January 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ooh, and RPGs.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:32 AM on January 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Translated as: "Apple sells every student on the planet an iPad".

This is how you do it, folks -- you make your product essential not through legal action and threats, but by making it simply impossible to live without.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:35 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy Crap robocop is bleeding, that is a brilliant idea. Now I can finally make my Supreme Evil Dictator interactive choose-your-own-adventure book!
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:35 AM on January 19, 2012


"Cave of Time", baby.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:37 AM on January 19, 2012


Oh my god, this would be amazing for RPGs.

The widgets. Imagine the widgets.
posted by pts at 9:38 AM on January 19, 2012


The textbooks are going to be less than $15 a piece, btw.
posted by empath at 9:38 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


If anyone wants to write an RPG for iBooks, I'm down to help anyway I can.
posted by empath at 9:39 AM on January 19, 2012


This is how you do it, folks -- you make your product essential not through legal action and threats, but by making it simply impossible to live without.

You say this like it's a good thing.
posted by DU at 9:40 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


The widgets. Imagine the widgets.

Tap on a table and the book generates the result.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:41 AM on January 19, 2012


I was curious about what happened to Push Pop Press. Mike Matas is not amused.
posted by sch at 9:42 AM on January 19, 2012


Al Gore was just cribbing from my thoughts from when the iPod was unveiled.
posted by peeedro at 9:43 AM on January 19, 2012


Thoughts:

I can't see how iBooks is going to upend K-12 textbook publishing without someone addressing how they're going to get iPads into every student's hands first -- it's all very well to trumpet $15 textbooks, while not addressing the $500 up-front investment you need to make before you have a device to read them on.

I wish they'd decide to murder Blackboard and the "courseware" industry instead of the publishing industry — but the iTunes U app has also-ran written all over it until they start talking about how its back end integrates with campus infrastructure. And, you know, copyright. Sure fine, I can put iTunes paid content in an iTunes U course -- how do I put non-iTunes books and journal articles in without essentially just using iTunes U to pirate them? This is why iTunes U is mostly used just to deliver lectures — profs own the copyright to their lectures, so it doesn't open up that whole can of worms. (Blackboard provides access restrictions to course material, limiting copyrighted material to enrolled students, precisely so that fair use at least arguably applies.)
posted by RogerB at 9:43 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


You say this like it's a good thing.

It is, if you're a crack addict.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:45 AM on January 19, 2012


Sure fine, I can put iTunes paid content in an iTunes U course -- how do I put non-iTunes books and journal articles in without essentially just using iTunes U to pirate them?

You don't. More money for apple. The courses they posted have a bunch of wikipedia articles as their 'textbook' though.
posted by empath at 9:45 AM on January 19, 2012


Possibly inspired by Al Gore

Heh. I think you mean "Amazon".
posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, instead of carrying a huge backpack, loaded down with notebooks, textbooks, worksheets, calendars, calculators and whatnot, my student can carry an iPad that has all of her books, get notes, her assignments, her research materials, AND she can literally interact with students worldwide. The future is awesome.
posted by ColdChef at 9:48 AM on January 19, 2012 [9 favorites]


So, instead of having an open system of interworking devices (books, calendars, calculators and whatnot), my student will be forced into one particular corporate pigeonhole AND can be tracked in real life and on the internet. The future is awesome.
posted by DU at 9:50 AM on January 19, 2012 [25 favorites]


I wonder if we'll see a 31,000 Student Hours on iPad advert someday. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:50 AM on January 19, 2012


Or she could just get a college education without actually going to college at all.
posted by empath at 9:50 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't. More money for apple.

In some fantasyland where all the content I need to teach in my courses — already-published books, journal articles, etc. — is purchasable through iTunes/iBooks, sure. Otherwise, ineradicable barrier to entry into iTunes for a ton of courses.

iTunes took over music precisely because you could get your existing music (CDs) into it painlessly. Until there's a similar process for "importing" an existing syllabus and existing readings, iTunes U is unusable for the majority of non-intro-textbook courses.
posted by RogerB at 9:51 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


In some fantasyland where all the content I need to teach in my courses — already-published books, journal articles, etc. — is purchasable through iTunes/iBooks, sure. Otherwise, ineradicable barrier to entry into iTunes for a ton of courses.

I'm not sure I understand how. Surely you could simply link to a way to get those sources, yes?
posted by empath at 9:53 AM on January 19, 2012


my student will be forced into one particular corporate pigeonhole AND can be tracked in real life and on the internet

This is why we can't have nice things.
posted by ColdChef at 9:55 AM on January 19, 2012


while not addressing the $500 up-front investment you need to make before you have a device to read them on.

1. It's $419 for a refurbished 16gb iPad2.

2. $500 for books for one semester is no uncommon. Even if it was $500 for one year of school books, it would still be cheap.

Until there's a similar process for "importing" an existing syllabus and existing readings, iTunes U is unusable for the majority of non-intro-textbook courses.

From the second link: "It doesn’t look like iBooks’ original book and PDF reading functionalities have gone through any changes in this version".

my student will be forced into one particular corporate pigeonhole AND can be tracked in real life and on the internet

They're forced into one corporate pigenhole right now, with only a specific book(s) being mandated by the course.

The tracking will help immensely when it comes to partying.

"Where's Jay, he was supposed to be back with beer. Check where he is? He's at the cheap liquor store, after all the money we gave him, WTF?!"

It's going to be brave new word.

Having a single, open standard for electronic textbooks, lectures etc would be great. It doesn't seem to be here, so someone is aiming for the market.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:02 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


"I can't see how iBooks is going to upend K-12 textbook publishing without someone addressing how they're going to get iPads into every student's hands first -- it's all very well to trumpet $15 textbooks, while not addressing the $500 up-front investment you need to make before you have a device to read them on."

Title I technology funds for impoverished schools that can only be spent on movable technology. Not tech support, not tech training (although there are different funds for that), not wired or wifi infrastructure, not expensive bulbs for the fancy projectors that go with the computers -- just computers. And then Apples comes around every time these funds drop into the budget touting iPads and offering reduced prices and free iPods for the purchasing manager who buys 10 iPads or whatever.

My district is 75% free-and-reduced-lunch, and we have TONS of iPads in the schools already. Even if our teachers don't really know what to do with them, because that's what the technology grants are for. These huge ARRA and Title I technology funds for schools are clearly there because companies like Apple want to sell products to schools, not because Congress sat down and thought through the use of technology in impoverished communities.

I fully expect that once we can't do without the iPads, the discount deals will stop, and the federal funding shortly thereafter.

(They are terrifically useful in our special ed programs, but in regular division, they're a bit of a solution in search of a problem at this point.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:02 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I was curious about what happened to Push Pop Press. Mike Matas is not amused.

Mike had two and a half years to make a useable product. They've released a single book in that time. At some point you have to shit or get off the pot.
posted by Talez at 10:04 AM on January 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


Having a single, open standard for electronic textbooks, lectures etc would be great. It doesn't seem to be here, so someone is aiming for the market.

Apple is using ePub, AFAIK, which is open.
posted by empath at 10:05 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I can't see how iBooks is going to upend K-12 textbook publishing without someone addressing how they're going to get iPads into every student's hands first -- it's all very well to trumpet $15 textbooks, while not addressing the $500 up-front investment you need to make before you have a device to read them on.

When I started college in 1984, my college said "Hey, all incoming freshman! You need to buy an Apple computer! Oh, you're on financial aid? Here's money for you to go buy the computer!"

How much was that computer (I think that's the one I had)? About $2500!
posted by rtha at 10:10 AM on January 19, 2012


So, instead of having an open system of interworking devices (books, calendars, calculators and whatnot), my student will be forced into one particular corporate pigeonhole AND can be tracked in real life and on the internet. The future is awesome.

I'm scared of all that stuff too, but I've been back in university recently, and got an iPad because I was sick of lugging laptops and textbooks around. I simply wouldn't go back. Partly because for the first time since the age of 11 I'm in a situation where my disability doesn't equate to taking half of mission-fucking-control with me just to be able to do the same things as my peers, and partly because my learning in and out of classes is enhanced by having a device that lets me access and work with my information quickly and easily.

The iPad certainly isn't a perfect device, notably inter-app integration can still be kludgy, and not being able to change my default browser is exactly the sort of petty pigeonholing that makes me worry about letting Apple be in charge of anything. But crucially it just works better for education than anything previously or currently available. The only way to stop Apple getting a long-term stranglehold on the market is for there to be some affordable and effective alternative.
posted by howfar at 10:10 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


A generation of students with eyestrain by 22. I have some fond memories of reading books in the park between classes and whole days going by without looking at a single LCD display. I don't know that computer screens have been proven to cause problems, but anecdotally I feel a lot better now that I've shifted as much reading as possible to physical ink-on-paper.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:10 AM on January 19, 2012


Ok, the notes/insta-index card feature is pretty clever.
posted by starman at 10:12 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I dislike this because morons will make students use it. And my one semester teaching outside the first world taught me the necessity of free textbooks. I'll therefore continue verifying that any textbooks I select exist for download from gigapedia's siblings/descendent, preferably in both djvu and pdf format.

I believe that wikibooks.org has largely underwhelmed mostly because they make people use this silly blogish mediawiki markup when people who write free mini textbooks anyways use latex.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:13 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is how you do it, folks -- you make your product essential not through legal action and threats, but by making it simply impossible to live without.

So Apple will be dropping all their suits now?
posted by smackfu at 10:15 AM on January 19, 2012


Why is it so hard to find the middle ground between cranky old nerd and wide-eyed, technology-worshiping naif?
posted by entropicamericana at 10:15 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


2. $500 for books for one semester is no uncommon. Even if it was $500 for one year of school books, it would still be cheap.

The $15 is only for high school textbooks. Nothing Apple said seems like it would impact college books.
posted by smackfu at 10:17 AM on January 19, 2012


Mike had two and a half years to make a useable product. They've released a single book in that time. At some point you have to shit or get off the pot.

I'm pretty sure they got bought by Facebook, and STOPPED making books. I'm really glad to see Apple actually shipped something us little people can actually use, as opposed to making a flagship and disappearing behind a wall of cash.
posted by DigDoug at 10:18 AM on January 19, 2012


A generation of students with eyestrain by 22.

Anecdotally, I used a laptop in every class from the age of 11. I am now 31. I've spent most of that time either in education or screen-based jobs. I have suffered no eye-strain or deterioration in vision during that time.

anecdotally I feel a lot better now that I've shifted as much reading as possible to physical ink-on-paper.


Your eyes are too weak for the future, man.

How else do you think we're going to make a jobs for guys who just do eyes?
posted by howfar at 10:18 AM on January 19, 2012


I think the future of education is Khan Academy and similar things, not interactive books.
posted by smackfu at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2012


Goddammit, Apple, I didn't want to upgrade to 10.7.

And yet, I'm going to, aren't I?

You assholes.
posted by curious nu at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Amazon will respond by doing the same thing for 300 dollars less.
posted by drezdn at 10:22 AM on January 19, 2012


I can't see how iBooks is going to upend K-12 textbook publishing without someone addressing how they're going to get iPads into every student's hands first -- it's all very well to trumpet $15 textbooks, while not addressing the $500 up-front investment you need to make before you have a device to read them on.

I'm sure that school administrators will have a very easy time budgeting for:

1) two iPads for the cost of every Dell or HP PC that needs replacement
2) four iBook textbooks for every one paper textbook that is likely obsolete
3) fewer IT staff required to maintain the same number of computers

When budgets are shrinking, bringing iPads into the curricula is pretty much an easy slam dunk for schools, given the alternatives.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:23 AM on January 19, 2012


The $15 is only for high school textbooks. Nothing Apple said seems like it would impact college books.

I hope it's still true for college textbooks, or at least close. $30 for an iPad textbook is way better than $300 for a paper one. Because if they try to price e-textbooks the old way, I think you're going to see a whole new section on The Pirate Bay.
posted by fungible at 10:23 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amazon will respond by doing the same thing for 300 dollars less.
posted by drezdn


Then you'll buy one and realize it's actually 'not' the same thing.
posted by justgary at 10:25 AM on January 19, 2012 [8 favorites]


Does anyone know if ibooks 2.0 works on the iphone? I just downloaded iBooks, but I'm not seeing anything different, and I don't see the textbooks they're talking about. Are they ipad only?
posted by empath at 10:26 AM on January 19, 2012


think the future of education is Khan Academy and similar things, not interactive books.

The iTunes U app courses almost all link to the Khan Academy as supplemental material.
posted by empath at 10:27 AM on January 19, 2012


Does anyone know if ibooks 2.0 works on the iphone?

Yes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 AM on January 19, 2012


Goddammit, Apple, I didn't want to upgrade to 10.7.

And yet, I'm going to, aren't I?


Yeah, I resisted the upgrade until I got my iPhone 4S, which then made the upgrade almost necessary, if I wanted to take advantage of iCloud - which I did. I still wish I didn't have to, since 10.7 runs kind of slow on my almost 5-year-old MacBook Pro. Yes, I'm overdue for a new computer, but I'm also several years overdue for a bonus at work.
posted by lordrunningclam at 10:30 AM on January 19, 2012


Apple has education leases and has had them since back when I was a small child typing BASIC programs into an Apple II+. $500 per child may seem a bit high, but iPads last for a very long time, and there is no way in hell that schools are paying retail cost for these things.

Plus, a fleet of iPads, even at cost, would be less than truckloads of overpriced schoolbooks. Not forgetting the fact that schools already have to buy metric tons of computers anyway.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:33 AM on January 19, 2012


I am hearing on Twitter that books created through this app are required by the EULA only to be sold through Apple, which is monstrous if true. Imagine if Microsoft had that kind of control over your Word documents.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:33 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also: imagine being a student, excited to open a new textbook. What's the value of that?
posted by ColdChef at 10:35 AM on January 19, 2012


I didn't know that MS Word was a program that creates ebooks specifically to be used on iPads. This entire time I thought that it was a word processor.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:36 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else find the term "textbook" kind of bizarre for this kind of thing?

I'm a little skeptical of this initiative, mainly because I never thought the problem with textbooks was that they didn't include colorful pictures or were too heavy. I just thought that the content was organized poorly, and they were not edited with an eye towards (a) correctness or (b) actually teaching the beginners who would have to slog through them.
posted by smidgen at 10:37 AM on January 19, 2012


Does anyone know if ibooks 2.0 works on the iphone?

Yes.


Can you tell me how to find one of these fancy new books then? I can't seem to find any of them.
posted by empath at 10:38 AM on January 19, 2012


I've started grad school this semester, and am more than a little annoyed at how thin the e-textbook market is. I got lucky and found my epidemiology textbook on CourseSmart, but I'm forced to use their terrible application and don't appear to be able to sync my notes and highlights. Plus if I'm not near a data connection and forget to manually cache a chapter, I'm hosed.

I understand publishers don't want to dance with Apple, but in this day and age, not publishing an ebook version of your textbook strikes me as being damn near like requiring me to buy a handwritten illuminated manuscript. We have robots and lasers now. PDFs aren't hard.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:38 AM on January 19, 2012


I am hearing on Twitter that books created through this app are required by the EULA only to be sold through Apple, which is monstrous if true.

I demand Apple give me their authoring software for free!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:38 AM on January 19, 2012


I am hearing on Twitter than Linus Torvalds eats kittens for breakfast and puppies for desert, which is monsterous if true.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:39 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


They're currently collecting donations for notebooks and pencils in my town to give out at elementary schools; apparently the schools can't afford to buy or lease those to give to needy kids.

Maybe Apple can subsidize or bankroll some of those iPads for poorer (the 99% of) school districts.
posted by Currer Belfry at 10:39 AM on January 19, 2012


Wow, this is just criminal.

They have no right to do that.
posted by empath at 10:40 AM on January 19, 2012


Ok, the notes/insta-index card feature is pretty clever.

I like that Kno hurried to release their Flashcard function just a day before the iBooks announcement. "Ha! – Apple copied us!"
posted by Kabanos at 10:40 AM on January 19, 2012


I am hearing on Twitter that books created through this app are required by the EULA only to be sold through Apple, which is monstrous if true. Imagine if Microsoft had that kind of control over your Word documents.

On the flip side, authors are limited to a maximum price of $14.99 on textbooks. Not a price floor, a price ceiling on textbooks.
posted by Talez at 10:40 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


FOSS people: instead of crowing about this thing being "closed," you are free to go out and write your own version of this. Have at it.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:41 AM on January 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would be delighted to type up a list of items for my daughter to study her geography on her iPod or my iPad, and then have the same software magically produce index/flash cards to drill with. Hurray!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:43 AM on January 19, 2012


I think that EULA is begging for an anti-trust lawsuit for one thing, and secondly, it's unenforceable.
posted by empath at 10:43 AM on January 19, 2012


Can you tell me how to find one of these fancy new books then? I can't seem to find any of them.

iBooks 2 works on the iPhone, but it looks like the textbooks require the iPad version of iBooks 2.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:43 AM on January 19, 2012


ColdChef: Also: imagine being a student, excited to open a new textbook. What's the value of that?

Um, two unicorn horns and a pail of the sweat of Mitt Romney's brow.

I have to imagine a child excited by a textbook REALLLLY hard, but I can imagine my kids getting excited over a graphic novel or an interactive book very easily.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:45 AM on January 19, 2012


This would be great if I had an iBooks app *on my Mac*...
posted by mrbill at 10:45 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow, this is just criminal.

Do not download and use the free authoring tools, then. You are always welcome to make your own free software, if you do not think Apple should recoup its costs.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:45 AM on January 19, 2012


Can it produce PDF versions of interactive books if need be?
posted by PenDevil at 10:47 AM on January 19, 2012


Heck, for high school literature classes, this will be great! Pour a Project Gutenberg version of a Shakespeare play on the even pages, and pull out selected vocab on the odd pages. Link to popular passages for those auto-generated flashcards. Put in links to YouTube excerpts of the Kenneth Branagh version of the play (or to "Strange Brew" if you're doing "Hamlet").

Dang, this is going to be fun! I'll volunteer to help my town!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:48 AM on January 19, 2012


I bet there will be a Calibre plug-in for these verrrry quickly.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:49 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can you tell me how to find one of these fancy new books then? I can't seem to find any of them.

Look for the "Featured" page in the iBooks store. The scrolling ads at the top show both E.O. Wilson's Life on Earth, and a few DK Visual guides.

I've just had a look at the free sample of Life on Earth. It's pretty slick. Incorporates a lot of the functionality that Inkling and Kno have in their platforms. Although they seemed to focus on K-12 in the presentation, it'll be interesting to see how this will affect the Higher Ed market. Publishers must be worried that their authors are getting more and more power...

The problem that I see is that this is limited to the apple platform. I can see educators hesitating to commit to something that doesn't allow students to use a device/platform of their choice.
posted by Kabanos at 10:49 AM on January 19, 2012


What's the definition of a "Work" under this EULA? If I make an ebook with Apple's software, I can only sell it through Apple. I understand that. But what if I also create another ebook with the same text and illustrations using InDesign? Can Apple stop me from selling that?
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:50 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Free authoring tools with purchase of new Mac.
posted by smackfu at 10:50 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can it produce PDF versions of interactive books if need be?

That'd be awesome. Then I could view them on my copy of Adobe® Acrobat®.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:51 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Do not download and use the free authoring tools, then. You are always welcome to make your own free software, if you do not think Apple should recoup its costs.

I don't think any other software company has tried to include such a clause, do you? Do you think Apple should be able to include a license in Logic that says you can only release your songs on iTunes? Or on Final Cut that says you can't release your movie on Netflix?
posted by empath at 10:51 AM on January 19, 2012


From the EULA (above jpg link wasn't working) at the very top:
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.
Later on in the first page:
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.
The "if you want to make money off our stuff, we get a cut" isn't that disturbing to me, but that it wasn't well advertised is.
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:53 AM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Last time I looked, Logic and Final Cut are not free.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 AM on January 19, 2012


Bad, bad news. This completely shits all over the business plan that I've been formulating since December.

Damn you, Apple! Stop bloody innovating!!
posted by run"monty at 10:55 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, but the only way to create a book for distribution on Apple's store is with this software, correct?

So imagine that Apple, with their near-monopoly on music distribution, decided to require a proprietary codec which they released a free converter for, but required that you solely distribute the song through itunes, and at Apple's sole discretion of whether they publish it.
posted by empath at 10:56 AM on January 19, 2012


Did Apple address at all how they plan their system to get around the byzantine textbook rules that already exist?
posted by smackfu at 10:57 AM on January 19, 2012


Youch. That's pretty nasty. Pretty sure no othe rebook creation or HTML editing software (which is all an ePub editor is, really) comes with such restrictions.
posted by Artw at 10:57 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe Apple can subsidize or bankroll some of those iPads for poorer (the 99% of) school districts.

No, I don't think it would work -- you see, while it might seem like a good promotional opportunity, those schools wouldn't look good enough to use in the ads. As the head of the LA school district said in their new education ad, "we have some... challenges" (not pictured). Perhaps those schools just haven't found the best, most engaging, animation of a cell wall to academically succeed, or the right lighting...

Anyway don't worry about pencils or drawing, because you can't use a (decent) stylus on the iPad anyway. And we all know highlighting plus straight text is basically equivalent to diagraming when taking notes. Soon we will all be typing on glass, might as well prepare the children for the future!

Well, at least they don't plan to add iAds to the textbooks... right?
posted by smidgen at 10:58 AM on January 19, 2012


It's trivial to work around the weird EULA: write the primary text in whatever you want, publish that wherever you want. Do the Apple-specific interactive stuff in the Apple-specific software, sell that on the Apple-specific store. All the Apple-specific stuff is probably only going to work in their domain anyway.
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:59 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll volunteer to help my town!

Winner, Cutest Sentence of 2012 (18+ Division)
posted by theodolite at 11:01 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's trivial to work around the weird EULA: write the primary text in whatever you want, publish that wherever you want. Do the Apple-specific interactive stuff in the Apple-specific software, sell that on the Apple-specific store. All the Apple-specific stuff is probably only going to work in their domain anyway.

Exactly. It's not going to stop you from selling your InDesign generated text version through Amazon. If you use their software to lay it out and turn it into an interactive book you sell it through their market.
posted by Talez at 11:01 AM on January 19, 2012


So imagine that Apple, with their near-monopoly on music distribution

Apple does not have a monopoly or near monopoly on music distribution. I can quite easily go to Amazon, cdbaby, bleep.com, etc. and get digital music that Apple does and does not release. In a monopoly or near monopoly that would not be possible.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:02 AM on January 19, 2012


Is it also antitrust for MS to only allow applications created in Visual Basic to run on Windows computers?

Or apps made in Android's SDK to only run on Android?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 11:03 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was curious about what happened to Push Pop Press. Mike Matas is not amused.

Push Pop was acquired by Facebook in what was widely understood to be a talent acquisition for their design initiatives. If Mike Matas wanted to keep designing ebooks, he shouldn't have gone to work for Zuckerberg. His snide remark makes very little sense to me.
posted by pts at 11:03 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it also antitrust for MS to only allow applications created in Visual Basic to run on Windows computers?

Don't tell them about the EULA on the XNA framework, for instance. This is actually a pretty decent day for education technology, and it is a genuine shame that some are essentially looking for increasingly specious reasons to complain.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:06 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


More than ever I want the Apple of HyperCard back.
posted by Artw at 11:07 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


What I want to know is if I put together a book, and use iBooks Author to publish it to the iBooks store, does that preclude me from also publishing it via Amazon's tools to the Amazon store?

The language makes it sound that way.

I don't like that.

That's like saying if you write an iPhone app, you're not allowed to also write the same app for Android.

Can they even assert that right? It sounds ridiculously non-competitive.
posted by pts at 11:08 AM on January 19, 2012


Can they even assert that right?

How would they? iOS apps will not compile on Android, and vice versa. Even if that were somehow technically possible, Apple has not stopped any developer from releasing an Android version of an iOS app. People can play Angry Birds on a variety of platforms, to give one example.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:12 AM on January 19, 2012


.Apple does not have a monopoly or near monopoly on music distribution. I can quite easily go to Amazon, cdbaby, bleep.com, etc. and get digital music that Apple does and does not release. In a monopoly or near monopoly that would not be possible.

iTunes market share.

Apple could very easily own the digital download market if they forced 100% distribution through their network. They'd get sued if they tried, it, but almost no one could afford to take their songs off of iTunes.
posted by empath at 11:15 AM on January 19, 2012


Technology will save the classroom!

(This headline brought to you by the year 2005...2000...1996....1990.....1988...1984....1980....1977...)
posted by madajb at 11:16 AM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Did Apple address at all how they plan their system to get around the byzantine textbook rules that already exist?

I can't imagine they can have much direct influence with State Boards of Education and Education Agencies (right now at least). I worked on adoption policies and standards alignment for one of these major publishers for five years or so. When I was a kid, there were no real state education standards. All the market was "open territory" for textbook publishers. Standards-based education reform in the late 1980s changed all that. The textbooks now have to be rigorously aligned to state standards. Since 2006 or so all major textbook programs have had a digital component or a digital version, but it falls under a supplemental category rather than a basal one. As far as I know, there have been few (if any) purely digital basal adoptions. I think states are willing to consider this, but they haven't had the infrastructure/hardware and content to do so yet (and probably won't until some 2013 adoptions come up--with implementation in Fall 2014). It will happen, though, I believe. It will take a long time, but this train only travels one direction.
posted by mattbucher at 11:18 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, so I said E.O. Wilson's Life on Earth looks pretty slick, which it does (despite the fact that it's crashed my iPad twice).

The DK Visual Guides are huge disappointment. Very little interactivity. I doesn't look like they took advantage of the new tools much at all.
posted by Kabanos at 11:19 AM on January 19, 2012


Okay so here's a totally hypothetical workflow. I put together a work of fiction in a word processor. Then I take that same text, format it for the Kindle using Amazon's tools, and publish it there. It costs 2.99.

Now iBooks Author is out. So I download it and paste my manuscript into a new Author document, then publish it to the iBooks store and sell it for 2.99 there, too.

That's cool, right? And if the language in the Author EULA precludes that, it's just some kind of ridiculous oversight or overzealous language, right?

If I'm understanding your argument correctly, Blazecock, you're saying that Apple's stipulation that books published via Author must only be sold in the iBooks store and nowhere else is reasonable, because they have to recoup the development costs of Author. And maybe that's true, maybe it isn't. But if it's the EULA of Author that's stopping me from selling a book more than once place, as opposed to an agreement inherent to all iBooks, that's a huge disincentive to use Author.

It would be like Microsoft giving Word away, but then saying that if you wanted to sell a book you'd written with Word, you had to sell it only through them and give them their cut. You can argue whether or not that's a reasonable stipulation for them to make in order to recoup development costs, but it seems like a huge downside for creators.

It seems so unreasonable and counterproductive that I'm thinking it's got to be a mistake.

The way for Apple to get great exclusive content in iBooks is to make the tools so good that people can't resist using the advanced, proprietary features. That seems like what they've done here. Proceeding to assert the right to stipulate where else you can sell the content you've created is a huge disincentive, regardless of its defensibility.

I want to be excited about this so badly.
posted by pts at 11:29 AM on January 19, 2012


“As you've pointed out, I've helped with more computers in more schools than anybody else in the world and I absolutely convinced that is by no means the most important thing. The most important thing is a person. A person who incites your curiosity and feeds your curiosity; and machines cannot do that in the same way that people can.

The elements of discovery are all around you. You don't need a computer. Here - why does that fall? You know why? Nobody in the entire world knows why that falls. We can describe it pretty accurately but no one knows why. I don't need a computer to get a kid interested in that, to spend a week playing with gravity and trying to understand that and come up with reasons why.”

—Steve Jobs
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 11:30 AM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Apple could very easily own the digital download market if they forced 100% distribution through their network. They'd get sued if they tried, it, but almost no one could afford to take their songs off of iTunes.

If Apple is a monopoly, they are not competent at being exercising monopoly control. I can still get my music more or less anywhere else but the iTunes Store, barring indie labels with old releases.

But that is neither here, nor there. Perhaps you would prefer to pay for the authoring software and have a less restrictive EULA (and that would be a fair comment, if someone were to make it). But the facts remain that the toolkit is free and that no one is obligated to use it, in order to create eBooks. Further, if you are not selling your Apple-authored eBook, then you can apparently do whatever you like with it. If these terms are not acceptable, then you are still able to choose other software.

There are software libraries which use the GPL license, if used in other GPL-ed software, while the terms change to a commercial license if the software is sold. The particular hybrid license attached to Apple-produced eBooks is not all that much different, in the end.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:31 AM on January 19, 2012


.But that is neither here, nor there. Perhaps you would prefer to pay for the authoring software and have a less restrictive EULA (and that would be a fair comment, if someone were to make it). But the facts remain that the toolkit is free and that no one is obligated to use it, in order to create eBooks.

My questions are these:

A) Can you create books for sale on the iBooks platform without using iBooks Author?

B) If you format a book for sale on iBooks with iBooks Author, can you format the same book with a different app for sale on another platform?

If the answers to both of those are 'yes', then i don't really have a problem with it, though it seems like a dumb and unenforceable restriction.

If the answer to either or 'no', then it seems like an unfair abuse of monopoly power.
posted by empath at 11:42 AM on January 19, 2012


If Apple is a monopoly, they are not competent at being exercising monopoly control. I can still get my music more or less anywhere else but the iTunes Store, barring indie labels with old releases.

Google has an effective monopoly on search, but they choose not to force you to only have your site indexed on google, or only carry google ads on your website if you want to be indexed. Apple has effective monopoly on digital music distribution, but they choose not to abuse it, for whatever their reasons.
posted by empath at 11:44 AM on January 19, 2012


Perhaps you would prefer to pay for the authoring software and have a less restrictive EULA (and that would be a fair comment, if someone were to make it).

I would certainly prefer that.

What I want to know is how this ties in with the existing reality of electronic books, where most books that are available on iBooks are also available on the Kindle store. The existing reality is that people can sell books on more than one service. Unless a book absolutely cannot exist without iBooks Author-enabled whiz-bang features, why would any publisher give up the right to reach (for example) the huge base of Kindle users just to use nicer epub authoring software?

I'm asking the question in good faith. The answer to me seems to be that there would be no good reason to do that; the convenience is not worth the potential economic downside, surely.

As I understand it, iBooks use epub. You can use Pages to format epub, too, so it's not like a publisher has to use iBooks Author to get content into iBooks.
posted by pts at 11:47 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A) Can you create books for sale on the iBooks platform without using iBooks Author?

Yes. This is what most publishers have been doing since day 1 of iBooks, with ePub format. Here's another non-Apple iPad app just for this: DemiBooks Composer.
posted by mattbucher at 11:47 AM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm personally quite excited because I published a wildlife guide with over 400 photos and it's quite hard to make it flow properly in plain ePub. On the other hand, I don't own an iPad, so I really hope that they finally release iBooks for the Mac. I also wonder if books made using the new program will work well on iPod/iPhone.
posted by snofoam at 12:01 PM on January 19, 2012


i have to imagine that ibooks author would double as an ibooks reader, no?
posted by empath at 12:03 PM on January 19, 2012


There seems to be some misunderstanding here - I am no expert, but, having played around with it a bit - ibooks author is not creating epub 3 files - infact the files are nothing like an epub - but much more like very clever Keynote slides which you can embed html widgets for interactive content or whatever you want to code.

When you export you can either do it in a proprietary ibooks format - or as a .pdf or text file. It is very much designed to create textbooks only for the ipad and not for any other format (atleast at the moment).

I agree that what people want to see in the long run is a great tool for publishing ebooks - but this is not that tool - this is a tool pretty narrowly focused at publishing textbooks on the ipad - using it for anything else and you are not doing as apple intended and you are going to rapidly run into difficulties as far as I can see. (for example - every book seems like it must have a glossary)

Its not clear to me that the files you create in this application would be any use at all anywhere except on an ipad at this point.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 12:16 PM on January 19, 2012


More iPads in the classroom?
So, a friend of mine works at a local high school where every student now has an iPad for texts, assignments, printing, etc. Mid-way through the year a number of other school principles came to have a talk about incorporating iPads into their schools, also.

At the same time, the iPads had just received a software update and iChat was activated. Being one of the only teachers with any tech knowhow in the school, my friend immediately fired up iChat and sent one of his colleagues the message, "Now I can send you invisible messages all day instead of doing work!"

As it so happens, this colleague was giving a presentation to the visiting principals. One of them had just asked the question, "Aren't these iPads going to cause unnecessary distractions for the students?" It also happened that the colleague's iPad was hooked to a projector for the presentation and my friend's message came through just at that moment.

Mortification ensued and lessons were learned. Or not. My understanding is that very few lessons are learned at that school.
posted by charred husk at 12:32 PM on January 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


iPads last for a very long time

There isn't an iPad on the planet that is more than two years old at this point, so I don't know how you can say that with any confidence.

When I signed up for my first photography class my dad let me borrow his old camera, a Zenit EM with a dent in it the size of a marble. I still have it and it still works perfectly - even the light meter. That's technology that lasts a very long time. Books can last centuries. iPads are designed to be obsolete within a year.
posted by oulipian at 12:46 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


From Inside Higher Ed:

This is a crossroad with three options. One route is full of tollgates and copyright police, and it keeps us traveling in circles. Let’s call it the SOPA Turnpike. Another is more open, but it’s owned by the outfitter that sells us the gear we need to travel, and if an entrepreneur comes up with better gear, it still has to be sold through the outfitter’s store. That has been Apple’s approach. Awesome store! But it’s still a store.

There’s a third option, and it’s the one that is best suited to the future of networked knowledge, one where (as David Weinberger describes it in his new book, Too Big to Know) knowledge is abundant, linked, unresolved, public, and permission-free. This is a highly-traveled but as yet unpaved road and it’s one full of craters left where the owners of the SOPA Turnpike have set mines and lobbed explosives. (They really hate "permission-free.") It’s a lot more attractive to whip out your credit card and take the middle road. Let the outfitters provide minesweepers and hire the lobbyists and lawyers. But those of us who think of education and the fruits of research as liberating and essential and who care about the billions of people who can’t afford to shop at the outfitter’s store - we want to chart a better, more just, more forward-looking path.


posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:46 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think you're interpreting the language in that EULA right.

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.

The key phrase above is work you generate using this software with the key word being generate. The EULA (at least the section quoted above, I don't have time to read the whole thing right now) seems to be saying that the digital product you create using this free compilation tool can only be sold via their mechanisms.

I don't think that's unreasonable. Draw a parallel to the embedded coding world: free commercial compilers typically target the hardware being sold by the compiler provider. You want multiple targets? Go spend some money on a more generic cross-compiler or use one of the free options. Which is similarly true for ePub.

There's a few ways Apple could have gone with this. They could have created a tool that makes a binary stuffed with proprietary extensions to ePub and just push out everyone else that way. I suppose they still might, though I think this is a move that will best survive reverse engineering efforts.
posted by phearlez at 12:47 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think any other software company has tried to include such a clause, do you? Do you think Apple should be able to include a license in Logic that says you can only release your songs on iTunes? Or on Final Cut that says you can't release your movie on Netflix?

I don't agree with this model Apple is pushing, and their tying creation of iBooks authoring to the OS X platform (i.e. it seems you need to be running OS X to run iBooks Author), but there is precedent for it elsewhere.

For example, game developers using Microsoft's XNA Framework are prohibited from connecting to any network unless agreements are worked out:

Licensing terms specifically prohibits the distribution of any networked videogame in any platform: "Commercial Networked Programs. In the absence of a specific agreement signed by both you and Microsoft which specifically grants you the rights to develop commercial programs that connect to any network, including Xbox Live and/or Games for Windows Live, you may not use the software to develop commercial programs that connect to any network, including Xbox Live and/or Games for Windows Live."

That license may have been relaxed now, limited to only games that connect to XBox Live, but at one time it was that restrictive.

Same goes with apps created under the iOS SDK, which besides the limited ad-hoc distribution and enterprise distribution methods, can only be distributed via the app store.

Like phearlez mentioned above, it's also common in embedded development. I'm sure there are commercial content-management systems out there that have similar restrictions.

It's a great business move, and they should have the right to do it.

But it's naive to say that this doesn't impact the general culture of computing. It will soon be copied by other e-stores, whether it's Cafe Press putting up a small editing app for their wares, or someone like Kodak or Kinko's making greeting card / photo editing software that only prints to Kodak/Kinko's printers. And I'm sure the business deals will flow soon after that. Exclusive deals between music creation apps and music distributors like Beatport or whatever.

There's a difference between a company having a right to do something, and it being good for the general public.
posted by formless at 1:09 PM on January 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


When I signed up for my first photography class my dad let me borrow his old camera, a Zenit EM with a dent in it the size of a marble. I still have it and it still works perfectly - even the light meter. That's technology that lasts a very long time.

I still have an Apple II+ that works perfectly. My 2nd gen iPod is dented up and still works perfectly. My 1st edition iPhone, scratched to hell, 4 years old now, works perfectly. I used that phone more than any electronic device I've ever owned. The build quality and components on an iPad are more than comparable to these things, so there is no reason to not think that they will last as long. An iPad has fewer moving parts than that camera of yours.

Books can last centuries.
And digital photos, and everything on the Internet won't. But nobody seems to mind that. The things that this replaces are things that go out of date: textbooks. They're not even supposed to be used for very long.

iPads are designed to be obsolete within a year.

Having a new model that comes out every couple of years is not the same thing as making something obsolete in a year.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:10 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess one purpose of this is to prevent textbooks that are made for the iPad to be sold and used on other platforms, such as Android. You can give it away of course -- and maybe even make a reader for Android that can view these things, I don't know -- but you can't make a business doing it. The result is that textbook publishers have no incentive to encourage people to use non-iPads to read their textbooks, and indeed it will be much easier to instead just encourage schools to get everyone an iPad.

This is fine in the free market "if you don't like it, just don't buy it" sense, but these things are different when we're dealing with children and human rights like public education. Now a child with an Android device will either have to buy or be provided with an extra iPad so they can read their textbooks. I personally don't care for the idea that one closed platform becomes defacto necessary for public education, but others are probably ok with that. But I suspect the path to that monopoly won't be that smooth, if MS or someone starts releasing their own our-OS-only textbooks. I also don't care for the idea that children and public spending are being used as pawns in yet another format-monopoly battle.

I suppose one other thing is that book monopolies are different from, say, the dominance of iTunes with music. Textbooks are the battle ground for serious political conflicts, and I don't like the idea of one company essentially having veto power in that game. As we've seen with the App Store, Apple is not afraid to exercise that veto power with politically sensitive topics.
posted by chortly at 1:21 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


What timing, I am in the process of mapping out a textbook. Unfortunately, the iBook authour does not output to epub but a different format. This does cause me to rethink a lot of things though.
posted by jadepearl at 1:26 PM on January 19, 2012


Unfortunately, the iBook authour does not output to epub but a different format.

I have seen it asserted in several places that the output is an epub, just that it has a different extension. Easily checkable, just create something simple, rename it, then see if you can open it with Adobe's free epub reader (or Calibre or whatever).
posted by phearlez at 1:51 PM on January 19, 2012


Education superstar Dan Meyer (I have somewhat of an educrush) pointed out Apple's plain-language version of the EULA sales requirement to me on twitter.

There's some nice allowances in there for creating product as part of a bundle; my employer's contract course arm could use this to create books used in conjunction with, say, PMI training, and not have to sell them through Apple's store OR provide them for free since they're included with the tuition fee.

I think it bolsters my take: it's not the ebook-as-content, it's the ebook-as-compiled-output that you can't sell elsewhere.

Can I distribute works created with iBooks Author as part of a product or service that charges a subscription-based fee?

Books created with iBooks Author (emphasis mine) may not be sold as part of a subscription-based product or service. iBooks Author books must be distributed free of charge or made available for sale via the iBookstore.


Will the end result be that folks without deeper pockets to buy other assembly tools only sell in the iBookstore? Sure, probably. But before this app was released what choice did they have? Apple, like any business, is going to take some actions to advance their own profitability. I don't think this is so odious (though a clause in there that releases this restriction for books they decline to sell would be pretty good faith IMHO).
posted by phearlez at 2:05 PM on January 19, 2012


The Unprecedented Audacity of the iBooks EULA
posted by Artw at 2:13 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


IMO HTML et.al. is adequate to create perfectly adequate interactive textbooks... with no need to tie them to particular hardware or software platforms.

So where are they? If education is a major interest, there's little sign of it on the Internet. There are very, VERY few AAA discipline-specific websites on the net ... let alone textbooks. That to me is evidence that *education* ... helping anyone with interest and preparation to advance their knoweldge ... is not a major interest. That whatever the interest is, it's not education at all.

Elsewise computers have been around since the first "Oregon Trail" popped onto the first PLATO terminal, and the first LOGO turtle reared it's head ... and VERY little has happened since. Why? if we're SOOOO interested in education?
posted by Twang at 2:39 PM on January 19, 2012


It's so typical of Apple to include that clause in the EULA, even though it's practically unenforcable and just gets them bad press. Who cares if a few people use the Macs they bought from Apple to generate educational books that can be played on Android or PC?

I wish they would be smarter sometimes.
posted by smackfu at 2:48 PM on January 19, 2012


I'll strengthen my statement upthread by saying that, if my students are ever asked to obtain any course material from Apple, then I will actively devise the evaluations to sabotage said course material, and I will share said "morality improvements" with other objecting faculty, which trust me will outnumber the few who went along with whatever dean Apple/whoever bribed.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:00 PM on January 19, 2012


I bet there will be a Calibre plug-in for these verrrry quickly.

No one has yet broken the iBooks DRM, so probably not.
posted by Huck500 at 3:12 PM on January 19, 2012


GUYS SOMEONE SAID "APPLE" LET'S ALL SEE WHO CAN SHIT THEIR PANTS WITH INDIGNATION THE FASTEST AND ASK HOW DARE THEY AS A CORPORATION BEHAVE IN A WAY THAT MAKES MORE MONEY THAN THEY SPEND
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:18 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm an apple fan for the most part, and was excited about this announcement. I still think that EULA is shitty.
posted by empath at 3:20 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


(less cynically, Apple has a pretty long history of educational bulk discounts, and if memory serves they've done deals like that with at least a university or two so far. Plus I'm not really sure where the problem is other than willful obtuseness that they say you can't sell the compiled results of their free ebook development tool elsewhere. Not that that'll stop the hysterical sky-is-falling-and-it's-all-Apple's-fault nonsense that always always happens.)
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:21 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I installed iBooks2 on my iPad just to see if it had gotten any better, and all my books disappeared.

Fuck it, back to Stanza + Calibre, at least until Amazon kills Stanza completely.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:48 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Known apple hater John Gruber:

"This is Apple at its worst. Let’s hope this is just the work of an overzealous lawyer, and not their actual intention."

posted by empath at 3:53 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is an overrated announcement. It's not going to make a huge difference, and very little will change in the *total* $$$ output of school systems for content and accompanying support services. Don't believe me? Start tracking the numbers.

Apple wants to lock in users.

Pearson, etc. are "giving away" 2nd-rate content so that they can lock people into their LMS and pre- and post-assessment tools. This equals MORE $$$ for publishing companies, and MORE $$$ for school systems to spend.

I find it interesting that everyone blames the publishers for high textbook prices. What about the used book companies? It seems that the latter should be praised for saving students money on used books, but it happens to be the case that the used book companies were the ones who first leveraged *reasonably priced* textbooks, and forced publishers (who are very lazy, and not wont to innovate) into the simple solution of raising prices to counter used book revenue.

What's even more interesting is that the used book companies own 80% of the college stores in America, and those stores *actively* mitigate against innovations (like Open licensed textbooks) that might challenge their corporate parent's hegemony.

College administrators are afraid to challenge the bookstores because the former take 6-10% of bookstore receipts to help fund campus services; that cash is made on the backs of students. Heck, even SPIRG, with it's "Affordable Textbooks" campaign (run by a very savvy person) is quiet about the used book/college bookstore scam because some of *their* funding comes from part of the revenue that is kicked back to college administrators.

Other companies are going to follow Apple, and before its over, as the ecology of education becomes continually more complex, it is going to take massive coordinated service arrays to fund all this. Apple wants to be part of that. It won't be long, if they manage to marginalize print, that you will see the cost of eTextbooks start to rise, just like print did.

Consumers and educational bureaucrats and foundations are suckers for these kinds of announcements, because they don't follow the money. And so it goes...
posted by Vibrissae at 4:51 PM on January 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I fucking love that, after my first impulse upon hearing elsewhere about iBooks Author was 'DAMN IT'S TIME TO WRITE THE RPG OF THE FUTURE,' I come to MetaFilter to find that there are other folks with sperm counts as low as mine the same absolutely brilliant idea.
posted by waxbanks at 5:14 PM on January 19, 2012


Now a child with an Android device will either have to buy or be provided with an extra iPad so they can read their textbooks.

What's funny is that I used to get grief from professors and TAs for using a Mac, when the software used in-class was either Windows- or, occasionally, Linux-only. Now the shoe is on the other foot and Apple is the worst company evar.

Unless people use the special features of this authoring software, it exports ePub, which can be opened in any ePub reader. So this is a good motivation for releasing textbooks for free. If you're out to make money, then just use a different authoring tool, for goodness sake.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:06 PM on January 19, 2012


So can one create these specially-formatted interactive textbooks with other software and sell them through the Apple bookstore? If so, that would go a long way towards clearing up these issues.

Also: what happens if I create some software that takes my iBooks Author-created textbook (that I own the copyright to), extracts the content and HTML5 from it, and recreates a very similar interactive textbook that I sell for non-iOS devices?
posted by chortly at 7:11 PM on January 19, 2012


@Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory, the iBook Author native format is one thing, but that is just for editing, not for distribution. If you want to view in iBooks, you export to iBook format, which looks very ePub-e.

It looks like the KB article on the EULA is no longer available.

I'm generally a big Apple fan, but it is hard to see this EULA as anything but small and petty.

Without this restriction in place, how likely is it that someone would use iBook Author to produce an epub for commercial sale and NOT offer it through iBookstore considering that 1) Apple makes the best device for viewing said publication 2) sells more of them than everyone who makes anything remotely similar, combined 3) offers the best ecommerce options for selling them? Further, for the same reasons, how likely is it that the sales through that alternate channel would be anything but a drop in the bucket compared to what flowed through iBookstore.

If, at some future date, Apple no longer makes the best device for viewing said content and/or, has serious competition for market share of iPad-class devices and/or doesn't have the best commerce system, then creators will have plenty of incentive to recreate their publications in order to get around this restriction.

I think the lost goodwill from this restriction is more costly than any additional value it might help them capture.
posted by Good Brain at 7:23 PM on January 19, 2012


So much for the investment in HTML 5...
posted by juiceCake at 7:26 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


So - I've been following the ePub publishing world for awhile (even got my educational company registered as a publisher in Canada and can issue ISBNs') and this is a very interesting turn-of-events.

However - be aware, that ePUB is XHTML + CSS + Images (SVG is supported) + JavaScript and you can build interactive books for sale on iBookStore (or anywhere) without touching "iBooks Author" - the best blog on the subject is: Pigs, Gourds and Wikis by :iz Castro, who has also pretty much written *the* definitive book on the subject: "EPUB Straight to the Point". (Link currently points to SOPA protest, hope she updates it)

What I am curious about is if "iBooks Author" uses a heavily modified ePUB format and/or adds DRM, so that one simply cannot "unzip" it and modify/snoop through the contents - if you can, I don't see how they will "enforce" the output as generated by "iBooks Author", as one will most likely be able to strip-away any custom Apple tags, attributes or files...

Looks like I am sticking with my current authoring/editing toolchain - free/open-source (Sigil, eCub, DocBook (OpenOffice) + XSLT), or less than $50 a pop (Jutoh, Scrivener, Atlantis) and then hand-adding interactivity...
posted by jkaczor at 8:17 PM on January 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


:iz Castro should be "Liz Castro", sigh.
posted by jkaczor at 8:18 PM on January 19, 2012


I miss the reality distortion field. :(
posted by mazola at 8:24 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why would Pearson want to take a college textbook that normally sells for $150 and sell it for $15, minus Apple's percentage, on an iPad? I'm having trouble with the math.
posted by mecran01 at 9:16 PM on January 19, 2012


Having watched the video of The Event in its entirety, here's my 'Business School 101' graphic:
                  DRAMA/ENTERTAINMENT
 
                      MacWorld '97
                          ___
                           |
                           |
                           |
I                          |
M                          |
P iPod Socks               |                  iPhone
A     |--------------------|---------------------|
C                          |
T                         |
                           |
                           |
                           |
                           |
                           |
                          ___

                     Gil Amelio '95

posted by mazola at 10:07 PM on January 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


This could actually be really useful to my wife. She's a speech therapist in a public school who got an ipad through Donors Choose. She could use this to make her own ipad based therapy aids. Very cool.
posted by drezdn at 6:03 AM on January 20, 2012


Why would Pearson want to take a college textbook that normally sells for $150 and sell it for $15, minus Apple's percentage, on an iPad?

The $15 is only for K-12 books, so the main advantage for a publisher is that every pupil needs to purchase a book every year. No reuse. No sharing. No school boards saying "the budget is tight this year, so let's get five years out of this $50 book instead of four."
posted by smackfu at 7:05 AM on January 20, 2012


[E]very pupil needs to purchase a book every year. No reuse. No sharing.

These are not rentals and schools can hand out managed iPads, if they want, to distribute course materials to students. Let's not one-button-mouse what is happening here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:20 AM on January 20, 2012


I don't know why they wouldn't just sell the books by subscription for the school. Just $x per year per 100 students or whatever.... With automatic updates, etc.. Seems like it would be better for everyone, in terms of long term planning and so on.
posted by empath at 7:24 AM on January 20, 2012


These are not rentals and schools can hand out managed iPads, if they want, to distribute course materials to students.

True, but sharing books that you can't take home isn't exactly progress either.
posted by smackfu at 7:50 AM on January 20, 2012


So we're now granting, at least, they're not rental books and that they can be bought and shared in the context of how schools can already, currently manage iOS deployments. That's progress, I guess.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:04 AM on January 20, 2012


iBooks author under the hood

It is indeed ePub after all, just embraced and extended a little.
posted by Artw at 9:02 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Artw, I was just checking it out and wondering if I really wanted to bother using something that couldn't output to anything besides Apple's format, PDF and text.
posted by snofoam at 10:04 AM on January 20, 2012


However - be aware, that ePUB is XHTML + CSS + Images (SVG is supported) + JavaScript and you can build interactive books for sale on iBookStore (or anywhere) without touching "iBooks Author" - the best blog on the subject is: Pigs, Gourds and Wikis by :iz Castro, who has also pretty much written *the* definitive book on the subject: "EPUB Straight to the Point". (Link currently points to SOPA protest, hope she updates it)


Castro has de-SOPA'd her Epub site. She's also written Ten Reasons I Can't Recommend or Use Ibooks Author.

It will be interesting to see how post-Jobs Apple responds to the authorial outrage. From the ibiography:

"Jobs had his sights set on textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform,” says a passage in the new book, Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. It notes that Jobs said he had met with several major textbook publishers, including Pearson. It appears that his primary focus was on the K-12 textbook market. “The process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt,” Mr. Jobs is quoted as saying. “But if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don’t have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money.” [source]

As much as I love my iPad, the time is approaching where universities will need to make a firm commitment to open standards, as opposed to corporate lock-in.
posted by mecran01 at 10:22 AM on January 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Artw: Youch. That's pretty nasty. Pretty sure no othe rebook creation or HTML editing software (which is all an ePub editor is, really) comes with such restrictions.

Blurb Booksmart?

If PDF, Kindle and others did not exist, there'd be an antitrust argument. It's so new, if they get enough pushback, we'll see a change in the EULA.

ePub is a perfectly usable format for ebooks, open, extendable, etc - and yet we remain stuck with a jillion (okay, more than a dozen) semi-compatible formats (kindle, mobi, . This tool is cool (kicked the tires of it a bit this morning) but it's not an ultimate solution to interactive books.

Additionally, what formless said.
posted by artlung at 10:26 AM on January 20, 2012


If my students can't use it on the machine that they can afford (or prefer), then it's a non-starter for me.
posted by oddman at 11:47 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


How is a proprietary format better than just packaging up some HTML5 documents and calling it a day? It seems that the main 'feature' is that it is locked down to Apple devices and comes with Apple's pound of flesh requirement. I fail to see how it's any more multimedia-savvy than what can be done in a browser.
posted by mullingitover at 11:59 AM on January 20, 2012


If my students can't use it on the machine that they can afford (or prefer), then it's a non-starter for me.

I wish I had you as a teacher in university. (Seriously.)
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:14 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not sure how this will work within the academic publishing world.

1. Seems like many textbooks are written with financial support through research grants and professors salaries. How will this work? Textbooks are a pretty small market. Very small print runs. This could make online publishing an advantage... many faculty have already been shifting to open source publishing.

2. I am currently in an online Masters program at the University of Victoria. The library has an extensive online journal and ebook access system that is based on your membership in your library. It all integrates with the (open source) moodle course provision system, which links to my library, course discussion areas, video and audio content from my professor and a way to submit papers and receive marks. Two years in I really like moodle and its free and customizable, works in any system pretty well from what my classmates say. I hear profs don't always like moodle as course design can be frustrating, so I can imagine some might switch if Apple provides easier design. Itunes doesn't work on my (ubuntu) laptop, so I hope not.

3. I do like Itunes lectures (use my son's computer) but find ITunes pretty difficult to use for academic searches in order to find relevant content. And slooooooooow.

4. Copyright and access to academic material in the digital age has been a big academic issue in Canadian universities.
posted by chapps at 12:21 PM on January 20, 2012


sorry forgot this link

Directory of Open Access Journals
posted by chapps at 12:22 PM on January 20, 2012


"How is a proprietary format better than just packaging up some HTML5 documents and calling it a day?"

It sounds like it is basically ePub, and is that to some extent under the hood. The devil is in the details. The area is so new, that we really haven't figured it out. Look at things like magazines on the iPad, or Amazon's various Kindle formats -- this stuff is in flux as the vendors try and figure out how to build a format that does everything they want. Low filesize, scalable to different sizes, aspect ratios, that allows to change text size, that allows navigation, that accomodates accessibility/screen readers, that works on multiple platforms, that takes advantage of higher density displays, that can link to the web or "live content." The things people expect of electronic books are, to put it mildly, diverse and contradictory. I don't begrudge them modifying a new format.

Further reading: Amazon introduces new Kindle eBook format and makes a major misstep (from October last year).

The field is just like web development. It's wonderful, has great promise, it's a mess, and shifting monthly.
posted by artlung at 12:47 PM on January 20, 2012


I think I understand the issues with the EULA, and definitely a proprietary format is not ideal for an author/publisher hoping for the broadest possible access to their book. On the other hand, I have a print wildlife guide with lots of photos and it's been hard to figure out how to do a nice digital version of it.

Regular ePub is open, but it doesn't flow very well, with photos separated from captions and stuff. Adding lots of formatting within the limits of ePub would be a bit of a pain and not necessarily work well across different readers/devices, which sort of undermines the benefits of it being open. An iPad (and presumably any 10" tablet) is actually big enough that the PDF works pretty well, but it seems like a pretty lame way to do an eBook. Before iBook Author came out, I was really thinking that doing an app was about the only option to have something that looks nice and takes advantage of the "e" part of eBook.

Coming from that point of view, doing a lot of work to build an app, or doing a little less work to use the new textbook tool are pretty comparable in that both would involve creating something just for sale through Apple. It's not perfect, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

In the video I noticed that books created with iBook Author automatically have different formats when viewed landscape (image-focused) versus portrait (text-focused). I think it would be entirely possible for Apple to update iBooks at some point so that the same book file would display in a way that is optimized for iPhone/iPod, and I hope that happens soon.
posted by snofoam at 12:53 PM on January 20, 2012


"How is a proprietary format better than just packaging up some HTML5 documents and calling it a day?"

Packaging up some HTML5 documents in a non-proprietary format means Apple doesn't get vendor lockin. And Apple likes vendor lockin. Customers? Customers can hand over their money and then go fuck themselves.
posted by kafziel at 1:06 PM on January 20, 2012


"Customers can hand over their money and then go fuck themselves."

Or they could use the tool and export to PDF.

Vendor lockin is nicely discussed above by formless. Apple's making a choice that requires customers to choose whether they're into it. Those who would characterize Apple as saying "go fuck yourself" -- well, it seems you've made your choice. It doesn't add anything constructive to the conversation.

Perhaps you could suggest that Apple, instead, allows people to purchase the app for $100, and be free of the distribution part of the license agreement. Would that satisfy you, or is it the notion that there's a new ebook format that's odious to you. In which case, do you also think of Amazon's Kindle 8 format as Amazon saying "go fuck yourself"?
posted by artlung at 1:13 PM on January 20, 2012


Also, maybe it's been mentioned upthread, but if this is successful it should drive others to create their own enhanced ebook making software, some of which may be closed, others of which may be open, so it should be a good thing.

Also also, it would seem that the logical next step is for Apple to release tools to author packages around albums or films, or maybe just create new templates for this software, in order to create some kind of super liner notes/box set booklet thing that can be included as part of an album or film that is purchased through iTunes.
posted by snofoam at 2:07 PM on January 20, 2012


So if you author your ebook with Apple's tool, you must only release that ebook via the iBookstore.

What if you author the book as an epub, then port it to iBook and sell it via both Amazon and iBookstore? What if you author it as an iBook, but then strip the resulting bits of Apple's code and sell the epub elsewhere? Can Apple send the legbreakers after you in these scenarios?
posted by mullingitover at 2:24 PM on January 20, 2012


What if you author the book as an epub, then port it to iBook and sell it via both Amazon and iBookstore? What if you author it as an iBook, but then strip the resulting bits of Apple's code and sell the epub elsewhere? Can Apple send the legbreakers after you in these scenarios?

The iBookstore already supports ePub, so you don't need to use the new software at all to sell a book there. I don't think Kindle supports ePub, so I don't know if Amazon sells ePub at all. If you strip out any code that is identifiably generated by the Apple software, I don't see how they can go after you, or in most cases, why they would bother. Also, in case there is confusion here, the limitations are based on authoring as in creating the file using their software, not as in I am the author of the book because I wrote the manuscript. I think they already clarified that the content of the book in terms of text and images or whatever, is still the author's and has no restrictions.
posted by snofoam at 2:40 PM on January 20, 2012


Amazon has you upload any of a number of formats, then they convert it to Kindle format, to sell it on their store. Kindle: Types of Formats.
posted by artlung at 2:46 PM on January 20, 2012


snofoam: "Also, in case there is confusion here, the limitations are based on authoring as in creating the file using their software, not as in I am the author of the book because I wrote the manuscript. I think they already clarified that the content of the book in terms of text and images or whatever, is still the author's and has no restrictions."

Interesting. So what's to stop any other ebook publisher from accepting iBook-formatted files and converting them to epub? What's to stop an end user from using a utility that'll convert the proprietary end product to epub? It seems that Apple is making a demand it can't realistically enforce.
posted by mullingitover at 2:52 PM on January 20, 2012


Interesting. So what's to stop any other ebook publisher from accepting iBook-formatted files and converting them to epub? What's to stop an end user from using a utility that'll convert the proprietary end product to epub? It seems that Apple is making a demand it can't realistically enforce.

I think the thing that is theoretically stopping that is the EULA. One of the links upthread already noted that if you change the filetype Apple's proprietary format is close enough to standard ePub that you can open the file in Calibre and export to standard ePub, minus whatever functionality is proprietary to Apple and not compatible with ePub.

I agree that it is probably impossible to enforce and on top of that, for 99% of books it wouldn't be worth trying to enforce. But maybe it gives them some kind of potential recourse to take against a company that has a business model of helping users break the EULA.
posted by snofoam at 3:01 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


mullingitover, snofoam , I think you're right.

Fact is, if you're going to the trouble to author a tool that reverse engineers and removes the iBooks-specific authoring aspects or rewrites it for another format -- wouldn't you have the wherewithal to write your own eBook layout/formatting program?

Writing a flexible layout system (as in: layouts change based on size and orientation and screen density, and in response to user actions) is a nontrivial matter. Ask the folks behind various browser layout and interaction engines: Gecko, KHTML, WebKit, Tasman, Trident, etc.
posted by artlung at 3:06 PM on January 20, 2012


ZDNet's Ed Bott: I’ve spent years reading end user license agreements, EULAs, looking for little gotchas or just trying to figure out what the agreement allows and doesn’t allow. I have never seen a EULA as mind-bogglingly greedy and evil as Apple’s EULA for its new ebook authoring program.
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
posted by finite at 4:31 PM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wish me luck boys and girls, I will be publishing my course assignment book using the tool and other e-book tools just to compare notes. I wish, people WOULD pay to buy the assignment book.
posted by jadepearl at 5:54 PM on January 21, 2012


but it doesn't flow very well, with photos separated from captions and stuff.
...
An iPad (and presumably any 10" tablet) is actually big enough that the PDF works pretty well,


Um... No - it doesn't - the only format PDF does well is 8.5x11" - printed.

Have you tried to read a book cover-to-cover in PDF on an iPad?

Pinch zoom in, move around text to actually read a section, drag, drag some more, next page.. whoops, have to zoom in again.

It is a bloody, unusable nightmare - because PDF is intended for "exact" page-layout and not scalable text...
posted by jkaczor at 7:07 PM on January 21, 2012


Wow, nice find finite! I've forward that to several people I know whom perspective textbook authors might consult.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:39 AM on January 22, 2012


Have you tried to read a book cover-to-cover in PDF on an iPad?

Use GoodReader, orient in portrait and trim the margins to suit. It is a trivial and pleasant experience. I do it every day.
posted by howfar at 7:53 AM on January 22, 2012


Orient in landscape, I should say.
posted by howfar at 7:54 AM on January 22, 2012


I prefer eInk displays for reading books honestly. I've certainly read many books on my laptop, which sounds identical to reading them on an iPad.

I've found that only pirated ebooks with very poor font sizing really benefit from a full blown laptop interface with it's more flexible zooming, presumably iPads wind up similar.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:29 PM on January 22, 2012


Graphicly Expands to Deliver Next Evolution in Digital Publishing
posted by Artw at 11:46 AM on January 23, 2012


"Like iBooks Author? Apple now owns you. The iBooks Author user agreement says that any file output in the iBook format must be sold through Apple's store, and not anywhere else. You can give it away for free, but if you want to sell your work, you can't sell it yourself. You can't find the best financial or distribution deal. You can't offer to email it to your friends for a dollar each so they can read it on their iPads. You must sell it through Apple, which gets a 30 percent cut."

The middleman is alive and well and looks set to get richer than ever!
posted by WPW at 12:09 PM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or, you know, you could just use a different application to make an eBook.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:17 PM on January 23, 2012


Sure, but the idea that this software cuts out the middlemen (as has been said about it) is nonsense.
posted by WPW at 6:39 AM on January 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yahoo Challenges Apple with a Cocktail of Mobile Publishing Tools
posted by Artw at 1:25 PM on January 26, 2012


Was reading the opinion of the lawyer that:

A) The EULA can't give copyright claim over your work.
B) Given that they have no ownership stake in the work, the only damages apple could sue for is the cost of the software (ie, nothing)

So, yeah, it's toothless.
posted by empath at 3:20 PM on January 26, 2012


Here's the opinion.

But Apple has been too clever by half here: if an author does breach the EULA (by not subsequently signing the written agreement after having used the “free” software) and distributes their iBooks-created-work elsewhere, what are Apple’s damages? Because Apple doesn’t have a copyright interest in the book (like an exclusive license), they can’t claim lost royalties as the damage. Instead, they have to claim that an author breached the EULA of a program that users did not have to pay for in money.
posted by empath at 3:22 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, but their EULA indicates the might sue you over publishing elsewhere. Why take the risk? Better open source or pirated tools exist.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:31 PM on January 27, 2012


Yeah, that analysis is pretty convincing, but if you have a right that can only be exercised by winning a lawsuit against a corporation with $100 billion cash on hand, it's not really a right anymore.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:01 AM on January 28, 2012


Apple has updated the EULA with version 1.0.1 of iBooks Author.
posted by phearlez at 11:42 AM on February 3, 2012


That's a vast improvement, and probably what they intended in the first place.
posted by empath at 2:30 PM on February 3, 2012


Apple has updated its iBooks Author app in order to clarify the language of its End User License Agreement. The changes to the EULA clarify that Apple does indeed intend the packaged product to be sold on the iBookstore only, but also make it clear that it does not lay claim to the content that you use to create the book, nor does it try to limit what you can do with that content elsewhere.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:19 PM on February 3, 2012


It's time for a unified ebook format and the end of DRM
posted by Artw at 9:29 AM on February 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


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