Cupertino, you seem to be becoming more driven by lawyers than product designers
A dizzying number of lawsuits related to patents is a fact of life at Apple. Steve Jobs himself mentioned that Google’s Android represents betrayal and the company has made no secret of the fact that they want to take this free OS out at the knees.
But what doesn’t get as much press is the legal requirements you must deal with if you want to be part of the Apple ecosystem. Case in point is the company’s recent foray into educational books. Apple allows anyone to use an app to become part of the Apple iBooks 2 book store. And as part of the contract that comes with the app are statements which say that if you submit a book to Apple you can’t submit it elsewhere. Moreover, if Apple doesn’t select your work and/or decides at some point your work is not worthy, it doesn’t have to distribute it. Moreover, you cannot hold Apple liable for the work you did which you will not get compensated for.
Ed Bott writes for ZDNet and explains that this contract is mind-bogglingly greedy and goes on to say the license agreement is even evil. I reached out to Ed and compared this policy to what Apple does with apps as it seemed more or less the same.
He agreed – saying via email, “An app written for iOS can’t be repurposed to run on anything else, and there’s no legal way to distribute apps outside the iTunes store.” He went on to say as he explained in his updated article that you can export the book as an EPUB document which will have the formatting and potentially cover stripped out.
So the story here is Apple is continuing its unusually tight and foreboding legal tactics into a new market.
The challenge is that as bad as the situation looks from the outside, the app developers I speak with tell me they are very happy with the partnership with Apple because they know they are selling far more apps then they would using any other system. In other words, Apple’s ability to design devices which are creating a consumer electronic addiction where cool new products have to be purchased as soon as possible is subsequently building an ecosystem of developers getting rich – while Apple shares in the profits.
Will the same be true for books? It is unclear – and I am sure Amazon isn’t sittings still- they aren’t exactly behind in the books arena as you likely know. They allow self-publishing and have an awesome Kindle bookstore and solid distribution as well.
But you have to wonder about Apple – are they really mind-bogglingly evil as Bott suggests or are they entitled to do whatever they want because in the end the rewards justify the steep license agreements. So far it seems most people in the app world believe the latter is more accurate – we’ll see how the same sort of agreement works out in the world of books.
Disclosure: I own Apple shares