“I’ve had it for 90 seconds … and I’ve already published a book!”

Apple's Epic Fail

A lot if this and that has surrounded Apple’s announcement of iBooks Author in the last, oh, 24 hours.  But, before you get way too excited, there are some huge caveats that cripple the viability of this free software.

Apple is innovative … I’m an Apple fangirl through and through.  I own an iPhone, my husband has taken over my iPad, I write on an Air that recently replaced my Pro.  I have zero qualms when it comes to the utterly beautiful machines Apple produces and the software that accompanies them — heck, Garage Band taught me how to play two cords on my guitar.

There is plenty of software for the writer … Scrinever (or whatever), Storyist, good old fashion Word, Pages … the options are limited only to how much you want to spend, and free is always going to be a front-runner.  But iBooks isn’t free, as in free-free.

iBooks has a few things going for it, one being the instant format for books that are otherwise complex, like research manuals or math books.  It allows the author to invite a reader on an interactive ride through their work, which is, without a doubt ground breaking.  It also boasts a beautiful interface … as do most applications from this heavy hitting company.  iBooks essentially takes the task of writing and spins it on it’s pretty little creative head.

… BUT …

Buyer beware.

iBooks has some pretty sneaky ways of manipulating the author.  The grandest being that the AUTHOR doesn’t own the work … Apple does.  Of course, Apple will pay you … but, only if they agree it’s publishable … and if it’s not, and you decide to say “f-em … what do they know” … then be prepared to give your work away for free because you simply cannot sell it anywhere else.  Nope, sorry.  Not Amazon, not Smashwords.  You, the writer of this original context, will be crippled by Apples end-all/be-all judgements.

Of course, from what I’ve read, you have the option to export your work elsewhere to another writing software … but … strike all that beautiful formatting, because it will vanish before your eyes.

But, what really sealed iBooks fate on my end was the review left by one user whom shall remain names … he said, and I quote …

“I’ve only had it for 90 seconds and I’ve already published a book.  Incredible” (and 77 out of 120 agree with him)

No, not incredible.  There are a lot of choice words that can be used for what this guy did in 90 seconds … but incredible fails to be one … epically fails, actually.

Incredible is writing a book with merit.  Incredible is taking the time to produce a product worthy of production … can that honestly be done in 90 seconds?  I think not-so-much.  What are we pushing here?  Steamed rice.  You can’t even cook a Cup o’ Noodles in 90 seconds for crying out loud.  I’m pretty horrified actually.

The product detail from Apple reads like this:

Now anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for the iPad.  All you need is an idea and a Mac.  Start with one of the Apple-designed templates that feature a wide variety of page layouts.  Add your own text and images with drag-to-drop ease.  Use multi-touch widgets to include interactive photo galleries, movies, Keynote presentations, 3-D objects, and more.  Preview your book on your iPad at any time.  Then submit your finished work to the iBook store with a few simple steps.  And before you know it, you’re a published author!  

::deep sigh::

I have to look at this … this “software” … as a giant step backwards.  One that makes really sad.  I can tell you whats coming without the benefit of a crystal ball or premonitions … highly unedited books, sloppy writing, and overzealous drag-and-drop users who will grow spiteful with time when their “90-seconds-or-less-book” is rejected … which probably only means they’ll start showing up on Amazon and Smashwords.

This is a sad day for those of us who actually take this whole writing thing seriously.







All Your Eggs, One Basket Only — Amazon Continues To Muscle The Market

Right now, the hot topic seems to be Amazon’s continual push to become the absolute end-all-be-all of the publishing world … especially when it comes successful independents.

On the forum I frequent an author recently posted about a deal with Amazon she’s been offered.  An exclusive deal where she would agree to not list her books on any other site — no B&N, no Kobo, no ePub, no iTunes — and in return for her sacrifice, Amazon would help boost her sales with special help, the kind only Amazon can offer.

The author, who also happens to be wildly successful, made note that nearly 80% of her sales happen to come from Amazon … with the other sites coming together to create the lagging 20%.  For her, it makes perfect sense.  Amazon is her readership … that’s where people find her and fall in love.  Taking the deal is simply good business … even if it means giving up the 20% in the other realms, Amazon’s muscle will probably more than make up for that on their end for her willingness.

The details of this deal remain super secret, Amazon is contacting authors privately to discuss the inner workings of their proposal, so the exact terms are unknown and they are asking those approached to keep quiet until a later date … but the floating conversation seems to swirl around the fact that signing on doesn’t mean forever and always, giving authors the back door if they ever need to escape.

It seems to me that Amazon is continuing to push the boundaries of becoming a monopoly.

When Amazon launched the Kindle, it was absolutely the best of the best of the best, and it held its place as King of The E-Readers for a good, long time.  But, B&N has seemingly caught up … along with Kobo, Apple and Sony all trailing not too far behind.

My guess is, if Amazon no longer feels they can beat them in the device market, they will attempt to outwit them in the library department by offering better books with a larger selection for a lower price.  But … they can only do that if we agree … because, lets face it, Random House, Harper Collins, Penguin and the like would never polarize their readers by making titles exclusively available through only one online resource.  Amazon … they need Indies.  We are all sort of like the wild cards, the ones that will take the crazy chances … getting an author to agree to only sell through one online source when so, so, so many are available with the simple click of a button … that’s pretty much a wild idea.  But, who better than us to take a different path?  After all, isn’t that what we do?

Amazon has always been the warm light in the Indie world.  Self-published authors will tell you, with very little prompting needed, that Amazon cares more about them, takes them more seriously, supports them more vigorously than any other outlet combined.  KPD is a true doorstep, once passed an author will find advice, a real person and someone who will help them if they need.  That alone allows them to be the front-runner for those going it alone into publishing.

But … all of your eggs?  One single basket?  I’m not so sure …

I think this it is a brilliant idea for the already published author who has a strong readership on Amazon and knows exactly (as in dollars and cents) what she would be giving up by giving up B&N, ePub and Apple.  For a new author, like myself, it’s probably not a smart business move.  My market remains untested, unknown.

Independent authors have to be more than just writers … they have to be business men and women.  When I think about this deal, I think about traditional publishers.  I think about how they conduct themselves in this literary web … which is almost as new to them as it is to us.  Would they limit themselves simply because Amazon would give them more muscle?  I doubt it.  They understand that the key to selling books is giving the reader — all readers — the opportunity to buy them.

Think about whole hoopla surrounding the release of the Fire.  Amazon was able to ink that exclusive deal with DC Comics, and B&N fired back quickly that they would no longer sell DC Comics in-store because they are all for equal opportunity.  If their Nook Color readers couldn’t buy DC Comics on their tablet, then f-it, they wouldn’t do business with DC at all.  Period.  Done.  Kaput.

When I consider self-publishing, I think of eBooks as only one avenue of sales in a city full of them.  I do want to be carried in brick and mortar stores.  I do want to give readers the chance to find me wherever it is that they find their books.  I simply could not, at this point in time, go along with Amazon.  But, that doesn’t mean I don’t support or understand how others could, nor does that mean I won’t ever reconsider when I’m working with brass-tack data.

I think the bottom line is this:

Independent authors are starting to have opportunities.  Some will help us, others will hurt us.  But, we’re being taken seriously enough by big brands that they want us all to themselves.  We’re absolutely doing something right …

**Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions below**