Nine days ago, Apple announced iBooks 2 and iBooks Author. While everyone else was writing “me too” columns critical of the license agreement, I was busily downloading the software, converting my Sakai book to iBooks Author, getting an iTunes Connect Account, figuring out iTunes Publisher, and getting a book published.
My conclusion is that virtually everyone has it wrong. iBooks Author is a brilliant move on Apple’s part.
I have long called for a decent desk-top tool as the single MOST CRITICAL missing link in empowering teachers to become authors. I rail over and over that most of the Open Educational Resource funding effectively wasted on organizations that are trying to enhance their own brand by republishing faculty products in their name instead of trying to improve teaching and learning.
Here are a few of my recent rants with a theme of editable exchange formats for authors:
So now someone has heard my lonely cry for help and answered. Apple (like it always does) saw the massively obvious missing use cases in the endless lame offerings for authors and given us a tool that it the right use case (at least the best we have seen so far).
Apple’s iBooks Author tool was announced Thursday January 19 and my Sakai book was uploaded by midnight on Friday January 20. I little mistake in my metadata took a few days to figure out (their tech support is obviously swamped). Once I figured the metadata out and fixed it – 36 hours later I am in the book store with a very pretty book with swipe-style table of contents, revenue model, distribution channel and the whole works.
You can click the link below or search for “Charles Severance” or “Sakai” in iTunes and you get my book. It is free for a while because a pay account takes longer to get approved than a free account. So hurry and download the book while it is free.
Technically, the path was not too bad. I downloaded a LaTeX to RTF convertor, then imported the RTF into Pages and then pasted the text into iBooks Author one chapter at a time, cleaning up extra whitespace here and there. It could have been better and the documentation could have been more helpful – but you cannot argue with moving 230 pages from LaTeX to iBooks Author in 5 hours. And it even caught a couple of spelling errors I had missed.
But this book (Alpha) is just the start. I want to add pictures, multimedia, and supporting material like E-Mails that will slide out over the text. Over the next few months, I will enhance the book with these materials and create an awesome enhanced book that I will call (Beta) and sell. I want to see how Apple handles all the extra stuff and makes a truly beautiful book.
I need to do a rewrite of my Python for Informatics book because of copyright issues. I am simply going to convert to iBooks Author first and then do the rewrite there because it is far easier for me AS AN AUTHOR (are you getting the picture????) to be creative and produce an excellent book where I am spending my time on the creative aspects of creating an enhanced book and not worrying about the technical pain of HTML5 that is still emerging.
(This next bit is the MOST IMPORTANT PART of this entire post.)
People complain about the state of iBooks Author at this moment in time. What they miss is that we authors have a pipeline of work. Some books take 6 months and others take two years, there is a need to revise over and over. I can live with the few imperfections in today’s iBooks Author because by the time my next books come out, nearly all of those problems will be resolved. I really do not like the Pages/iBooks Author interface – but I have years to figure it out. This is a moving target and Apple is just getting started.
The Market Impact
Remember that it was *years* before iTunes became profitable – it was not an overnight success. All the people nay-saying iBooks Author are reacting to what it is *right now*. Already it is surprisingly impressive – but what is more important is that if folks could stop complaining about the EULA for a second and imagine where this roadmap leads – they would immediately see that the publishing industry has about five years before the door is completely shut by Apple.
The good news is that it will take Apple some time to strangle the industry. Companies like Amazon or Pearson or some startup could build a good tool or a funding agencies like Gates and Hewlett could fund an open effort to build a tool. Or perhaps one of the startups that are trying to multi-publish book authoring “in the cloud” (whoever came up with this idea never spoke to a single author) will change direction and build a desktop tool. One way or another the market can and will build a “Zune Author” to compete with iBooks Author. The “Zune Author” will likely be better, cheaper, more usable, and more open, and better in an infinite number of ways. But since so many people in this industry think about the next six months rather than the next five years, “Zune Author” will arrive too late, and technical superiority will not matter.
So the question is who in this educational space will take this on this problem head-on. I predict that no one will. Venture capitalists and philanthropic funders will continue to fund last year’s good ideas that we see over and over in keynote speeches from education futurists in the pursuit of the quick buck while Apple quietly sits in their spaceship-like headquarters and quietly builds on their lead in the publishing market and then all the “futuristic thinking geniuses” will wake up one day gasping for air and with their last breath, saying “DAMN YOU APPLE!” and wondering where things went wrong.
And on that day in 2017 when the publishing industry has been killed by Apple, please do a google search and find this blog post where I told you what to do and you did not listen. Of course it won’t change anything. And whatever I am telling you in 2017 – you won’t listen to that either. It is very frustrating to be right and have no one listen.
If you liked this rant, you can read 200+ pages of my ranting about what worked and what did not work in the Sakai Project between 2003 and 2007 on your iPad –
Sakai: Free as in Freedom (Alpha) is now available in iTunes and the Apples iBookstore.