Eight years after releasing tools to create what were then known as iBooks, Apple launched Apple Books for Authors, a new effort to get writers published on its platform.
Authors Dani Shapiro (left) and Walter Mosley (right) are among the writers who give (a little) advice
Back when it was trying to create the iPad, and before it unfairly lost a $ 450 million lawsuit for allegedly pricing the book, Apple hoped to become the number one e-book service. There was also a lot going on, starting with how Apple’s iBooks were just better than Amazon’s Kindle titles.
Unfortunately, Amazon was way ahead. By the time Apple announced its iBooks service alongside the iPad in January 2010, the Kindle had already been around for three years.
The Kindle had become the Hoover of vacuum cleaners or the Biro of pens. More people have talked about ingesting on their Kindle than buying e-books.
Producing books for Kindle was then relatively simple – reasonably – whether you were an established publisher or an individual author. Although there have been and there are more, if you can produce a PDF of your book, you can publish it.
This has made and continues to make the production of Kindle books fast, but it also means that Amazon’s platform is basic. Apple set out to reinvent the e-book experience, starting with the ers, then in 2012 with the authors as well.
Left: Apple Books on iPad. Right: Kindle on iPad.
The last time Apple tried to attract authors
Originally called iBooks Author, Apple’s app was capable of producing PDFs for Kindle, but it was really ready to create beautiful books for its own platform. The app’s ability to give authors everything from better typographic controls to embedding videos was superb. He really left Kindle in the dust.
Except it was also a buggy. Even though it took Apple two years to get the app published, the authors repeatedly found that it was going to crash. If you added too much video, if you used too many features, iBooks Author would crack and fail.
Undoubtedly, this tool has been improved over the years, but unfortunately, few people will have noticed it because not many have clung to it. The art and capacity of Apple’s iBooks have been beaten by the ubiquity of Kindle.
Apple does not publish any figures, so it is not possible to realistically guess the number of books on the service compared to Kindle. But for the record, it has long been true that if you want a particular title, it is certain to be on Kindle – and perhaps also on Apple Books.
If you are an author, you may still be what are now called Apple books, and you will appreciate that they are more beautiful. It is now so rare to commit to creating books only for the Apple Books Store that the Apple app is almost forgotten.
Apple iBooks Author Still Lives
It’s very unfair, but even today, as Apple launches Apple Books for Authors, its renewed efforts to attract authors don’t mean it has improved its software tools. Discouragingly, the application is even called iBooks Author.
Here’s what Apple’s iBooks Author app looks like today – and what it looked like when it launched in 2012 as well.
It has been updated since Apple renamed the iBooks service to books only in 2018, but not significantly. IBooks Author from Apple is currently on version 2.6.1, and this update arrived a year ago.
The previous version, 2.6, was two years ago, and 2.5 was three years ago. It’s not like one of these updates is important either, so it’s not the cutting edge tool it even originally was.
What Apple is doing with its new Apple Books for Authors initiative is only partially about the tools to do it. In addition to its own authoring tool, Apple is now promoting Pages as a place to “create great books” and Microsoft Word as an executable.
Apple mentions alternatives, such as its own Notes app, but also significantly the third-party Scrivener. It’s a compelling tool for writers, both for how it helps you manage writing big books, and it’s so good, so popular, that it would seem peculiar if Apple didn’t have it. mentionned.
It seems just as peculiar that the new promotion does not mention Vellum. Vellum is a beautifully designed app and service for creating eBooks and print titles, and it is designed by former Apple designers.
Apple offers advice
The tools Apple mentions are just a small part of the new Apple Books for Authors offering. They are a footnote in a section called “Write Your Book,” which focuses much more on finding inspiration.
This section is like Apple plunging a toe in the Masterclass format. Established writers such as Dani Shapiro and Walter Mosley speak directly to the camera about writing problems.
They are well shot, well made and the authors are interesting. But where Masterclass has, say, Aaron Sorkin speaking for about three hours, each of the few Apple Books for Authors videos so far has been two minutes long.
Where Apple Books for Authors does much better is in the details of what happens after writing. It contains sections on preparing your book for publication, then publishing it, as well as what happens next with marketing, sales, and reporting.
Maggie Tokuda-Hall is currently one of four authors advising on the new service.
It is true that publishing to Kindle is easy, but it is not true that it is immediately obvious to do so. There are many steps and most of the individual authors who post it do so by repeated trial and error, and many discussions on the Amazon support forums.
Apple, by comparison, now provides a wealth of informationon about each step in the process. Everything is written in a generally understandable Apple style, and offers videos for the most catchy parts, such as using the iTunes Connect service for publishing.
Where Apple Books wins
The new service from Apple is full of useful advice, but it does not skimp on its promotion. As for the only direct reference to the Kindle, Apple has a table listing all the reasons why it is better.
This is one of those tables that has many categories, with tick marks for Apple and, of course, crosses for Kindle. It’s tilted towards Apple, of course, but its points are right.
For example, he points out that Apple does not charge authors or publishers for delivering ebooks to users. It has always been a little bit absurd that Kindle does, and it goes back to the early days when Amazon found a way to charge for sending a book to your Kindle hardware device.
Then, with what might be a nod to the old clenched jaw, Apple Books for Authors wants to say that it doesn’t match prices – and that Kindle does.
Will Apple Books for Authors Work?
Apple Books for Authors could make more author videos because they are short enough so that they don’t seem substantial. Apple could do a major overhaul of iBooks Author, or maybe just delete it completely and focus on the pages.
Apart from that, what the new promotion brings is just this – the promotion. It’s a strong advertisement for Apple Books, and it offers really useful advice and informationon.
Right now, it seems like a second, daring, if not fruitless, second attempt to take on Kindle.
The times have changed. E-books no longer kill print titles, at least not overwhelmingly. The Apple of 2020 is not the same as the Apple of 2010 in terms of the number of people – and which market segments – use its equipment.
If Apple is betting that there are so many more people using Mac and iOS that it can try pushing its creative tools and services again, that may be right. Apple Books may not have to beat Kindle this time around, just supply a library large enough for the authors to work on.
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