Am I Reading This Wrong?

(Please preface this with “I am not a lawyer.”)

From the EULA for iBooks Author:

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.

Apple will not be responsible for any costs, expenses, damages, losses (including without limitation lost business opportunities or lost profits) or other liabilities you may incur as a result of your use of this Apple Software, including without limitation the fact that your Work may not be selected for distribution by Apple. 

The bolding is theirs.

I freely admit I don’t read every EULA that comes my way. After this though…boy, that might change.

What they’re saying here (see disclaimer at the top of this entry) seems to be “If you sell it, we get a cut, period. And if we don’t want it…you STILL can’t sell it.”

I am struggling to see how this is different than, say, Adobe telling me sure, you can Photoshop the daylights out of your pictures – but if you sell them, you better sell them through us.

I don’t know. This is one of those Apple-isms that I’m hoping was rushed out, and that somebody’s lawyers call them up and explain to them how this is unenforceable. (Of course, I’m not sure it’s unenforceable, but it sure feels like it SHOULD be unenforceable.)

Until then…I will continue to enjoy the fine e-book publishing experience I discovered within Scrivener, which is well worth the $45 for those of you looking for a fine writing and organizational tool. And speaking of Adobe, InDesign does a damn nice job too, although with a higher learning curve.

I really do think there is room for an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop, click-and-publish ePub tool. And I’ve no doubt Apple is capable of providing a superior user experience. But I’ll tell you…with stuff like this, I’ll be thankful for my techie background and stick with the harder stuff.

Addendum: In thinking about this, I suppose it’s not such a big deal. After all, I can copy my content into some other tool if I want to publish like a normal person. No harm, no foul, right? There are two things, though, that tweak me about it.

First, and probably least defensible, is the idea that anybody should tell me what I can do with what I’ve created, even using their tools. (And as far as I know, we’re not even talking about proprietary formats here.) After all – I write software every day, and it’s not mine. Of course, I know that when I’m writing the software. One of the reasons I write fiction is because it’s mine. And it bugs me that I can’t use a new toy without my creation ceasing to be mine.

Second – there really is a need for an easy-to-use publishing tool. Yes, there are services like Smashwords – but boy, I’ve seen some sub-par output from some of these places. It should be possible for authors to self-publish without needing to spend $700 on InDesign. It should be easy. It should be write once, read anywhere you like – just as if it were, you know, an actual book. Digital books are the future, but all this copy-protection and format nonsense is making everything far more difficult than it should be. As a publishing tool, iBooks Author may be a fabulous thing. As a tool of the future? In my opinion, it’s fatally flawed.

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