Apple’s education event today is a major breakthrough in digital textbooks. Apple addressed just about all of the different problems facing digital textbooks.
But Apple still has one obstacle to overcome:
Universities & publishers are afraid that Apple will be too dominant.
It doesn’t help that Apple has a tricky little clause in the iBooks Author EULA that makes publishers promise to be exclusive to Apple.
From the EULA:
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.
Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty.
One difference: You are publishing iBooks to the iBookstore, not saving it to your hard drive. You enter into an agreement with Apple as a seller of your book, not as a software company like Microsoft or Adobe. So it’s more like Getty saying you can’t sell the image to Corbis.
Even so, this is scary. And it needs to change. As John Gruber put it, “This is Apple at their worst.”
Digital textbooks are long overdue
Let’s hope this blows over with time, like DRM, because digital textbooks need to happen now.
Actually, they should have happened years ago.
Apple’s the first one to make it happen. Let’s hope they do it right.