Apple’s announcement of its plan to enter the textbook publishing market came only two weeks ago, but according to industry analysts, the company’s move is already paying off in a big way. NewsQuench reports that over 350,000 textbooks have been sold since Apple’s January 19th event. Carl Franzen, IdeaLab columnist for Talking Points Memo, thinks such an early rush by consumers to try out the latest offerings is a great sign for the future:
Although it’s unclear how many of these were paid downloads at the standard $14.99 (as opposed to downloads of the free sample book E.O. Wilson’s Life on Earth), the fact that the store has seen so much interest in such a short time, with so few titles so far — just seven textbooks are available at present — would seem to bode quite well for Apple’s educational ambitions, to say the least.
Eventually, Apple plans to offer a more traditional textbook catalogue, as indicated by its partnership with McGraw-Hill Education. However, the part of Apple’s plan that drew the most attention and enthusiasm was the introduction of iBooks Author, a piece of software that will make it easy for anyone to self-publish textbooks and offer them for sale in Apple’s iBooks store. Most reviewers found iBooks Author easy to use and ideally suited to the task of creating readable, media-rich textbooks that dazzle when viewed on Apple’s iPad.
However, once the initial giddiness wore off, many raised concerns about what they saw as Apple’s overly-restrictive iBooks Author License Agreement.
Steven Sande, who recently started a digital publishing company called Sand Dune Books, points out that the main issue is that the Agreement seems to prohibit any content created on iBooks Author from being sold anywhere but on Apple’s iBooks store. Additionally,
… it appears from reading this that if you wish to sell your iBooks Author-created tome through the iBooks store, then you cannot sell it through any other bookstore — including the Amazon Kindle Bookstore.
Sande is not the only one to point out this problem. Ars Technica columnist Chris Foresman writes that the restrictive license agreement could open Apple up to anti-trust scrutiny. Although the company doesn’t place any limitations of content created on iBooks Author and given away for free, the restrictions placed on authors who wish to monetize their creations are much more stringent.
“The most important issue for authors to understand is that this creates an exclusive distributorship,” intellectual property lawyer Dan Booth told Ars. “This is like a recording studio telling a musician that it has a right to dictate how anything recorded in the studio gets sold. If the musician agrees to those terms, there’s no turning back later. And in this case, the studio is holding on to the master tapes.”
However, the legitimate concerns raised by Sande, Foresman and others didn’t seem to tamp down the enthusiasm of potential authors for Apple’s new publishing platform. Since its launch, Apple’s iBooks Author app has been downloaded nearly 90,000 times.