System Extension

System Extension

Stephen Hackett:

I’m happy to announce System Extension, the new monthly e-book companion to 512 Pixels. Put together with iBooks Author, System Extension includes bonus content, an inside look at what I do here on the site, tips, tricks and more.

Amidst the recent discussions of weblog monetization, Stephen Hackett has just unveiled the latest perk for his paid members: System Extension. The first issue is available for your free perusal on 512 Pixels.

Regardless of the content, Stephen is providing a measurably unique service to his members. In an industry increasingly characterized by the uninspired duplication of business plans, the very sentiment of attempting something new — just as I wrote with regard to Ben Brooks — is of the utmost importance.

Moreover, as the first issue is available for free, the reader is able to make an informed judgment regarding the value of the membership. Such transparency is fairly rare, and I certainly applaud his experiments in this field.

For more information regarding Stephen’s membership model, visit 512 Pixels.

Brett Kelly Explains His Decision to Forego iBooks Author

Brett Kelly, author of Evernote Essentials, has independently sold and distributed over 10,000 copies of his e-book. Accordingly, as an active member of the Apple community, and given the book's existence as a guide for an interactive service, many have posed the question: why not rebuild the book using iBooks Author?

Simply put, the adoption of iBooks Author, regardless of any benefits it may hold for the interactivity of the book, simply holds far too many negatives for Brett's business model. Whether it's Apple's restrictive pricing, potentially far-reaching EULA, or the distinct lack of direct interaction with the consumer, Brett writes that the answer to the aforementioned question is, unequivocally, "absolutely not."

One of the most striking problems -- one I had not considered -- is the matter of communication with the reader. Brett writes:

Like I said in that other post I wrote about eBook writing/selling, I capture an email address and name for each person who buys from me because, a) I want to keep in contact with them and try to add more value than just the eBook itself and b) having a list of names and email addresses of people who buy your stuff is extremelyvaluable. Sounds like Internet douchebaggery or whatever, but this is a business, after all.

At the moment, iBooks Author seems ideologically fantastic, but practically flawed -- at least as an independent publishing tool. The potential for iBooks Author is irrefutably present, and indeed, as I've argued in the past, the app is clearly destined for greater purposes than just textbooks (as is betrayed by the app's name). But, for now, for writers in Brett's position, the negatives evidently far outweigh the positives.

I have no doubt that iBooks Author will evolve beyond the bounds of textbooks and, accordingly, I hope the licensing and agreements will associatively grow. But that is much more difficult to discern. iBooks Author has a wealth of potential for independent authors, and I can only hope Apple will make concessions for such potential users. Otherwise, realistically, I doubt it will be long before a (marginally) viable alternative surfaces.

As an aside, the success of Evernote Essentials, in my eyes, is a ringing endorsement of the potential for digital and independent publishing. Undercutting the middle man, sustaining a level of accountability and communication between author and reader, and fostering a much more personal and up-to-date experience are all admirable and impressive goals -- goals that Brett has evidently attained.

So, as Stephen Hackett writes, regardless of what you might feel about iBooks Author, "Brett’s sold a bunch of copies of his ebook, so unlike most of us, he actually knows what the heck he’s talking about."

You can buy Evernote Essentials here.

iBooks Books

Two days ago, Marco Arment made an interesting observation regarding Apple's iBookstore. Marco writes:

The books available on the iBookstore are just called books.

Much has been made of the apparent discrepancy between a traditional book and an iBook, with Ben Brooks going as far as to call it a "clumsy" naming convention. While I certainly see Ben's point, I tend to think Apple is simply operating with its own best interests at heart.

Apple is not in the business of making physical books, nor is it (presumably) interested in developing an e-reader. As such, for Apple, an iBook need not be differentiated from its physical counterpart. iTunes does not label its e-book library as anything aside from "Books," just as "Music" is not labelled as anything more granular. Granted you can insert many different formats into these respective libraries, but the "Books" library, for instance, is solely compatible with the iBooks iOS app.

From Apple's official "What's On iTunes" page (pictured above):

The iTunes Store includes a well-stocked library of the world’s best-selling books — ebooks, audiobooks, and new interactive iBooks textbooks for iPad

The implication is that, regardless of your perspective, iBooks allows the reading of books, and any further definitions are held therein.

Regardless of vessel, a digital book is fundamentally a means for delivering the same written word as its paper counterpart. As Apple is not in the business of pursuing and endorsing anything otherwise, it makes sense to refer to iBooks as "books." Removing the preceding "i," for the consumer, suggests that their purchase in the iBookstore is substantively similar to walking into a Barnes & Noble, but more convenient.

Also of note, despite enormous differences, Apple chose not to refer to its textbooks as anything other than textbooks in the iBooks store. Looking beyond the PR and aforementioned iTunes page, iBooks textbooks simply reside in a "Textbooks" section. Rich media, HTML, and graphical styling aside, it's in Apple's best interests to avoid the discernment, and to sell a book as a book, and nothing more. The same applies to virtually anything in the iTunes ecosystem: magazines, music, movies, and television.

Ben rightly points out that we aren't necessarily at this stage in the evolution of literature, but, for Apple, such a fact is fairly irrelevant. They are selling the same words, chapters, and authors as any other bookstore. Competitors like Amazon are forced into discerning between a digital and paper copy because they sell both, this is not requisite of Apple, and it certainly makes sense to forego such a naming convention. When you buy a book from the iBookstore, in Apple's eyes, you get a book. Simple.

On the other hand, you could fairly argue that it might be in Apple's best interests to popularize the naming of a digital book as an iBook, but such an action seems callous. E-books extend far beyond Apple, just as digital music did too. As long as a book is in a non-DRM format, just as with music, you can enjoy it through Apple's iBooks software. Not all contained therein is an iBook, just as everything in the iTunes Store isn't an iTunes Song or iTunes Movie. Any perception otherwise would be confusing.

Of course there are a great many subtle (and some not so subtle) differences from e-book to e-book, iBook to paperback, and so on, but, for Apple, why make the explicit discernment when there is no alternative for them? Why endanger the sales of their products for the sake of explicit accuracy?

I don't mean to fan the flames of the topic, I tend to think Ben is right. But from my perspective, Apple isn't doing anything necessarily presumptive or wrong, it is simply acting in its own best interests, and that is certainly of no shock to me.

Just as buying a book in one English speaking country differs from another, digital versions will boast discrepancies from store to store. Calling an iBook a book, regardless of whether it's right or not, is just a much simpler, more realistic, and potentially future-proof thing to do.

Apple Media Event Reportedly Focused on iBooks and Publishing

Yesterday evening, Kara Swisher reported for AllThingsD that Apple is planning a media event in New York City for late January. The Loop's Jim Dalrymple coroborated this report with his signature confirmation, "yep."

Rampant rumor-mongering ensued, with many keen to ignore Swisher's initial reports titular caveat: "Not the iPad 3 or New TV."

Techcrunch has acted to save our sanity today by conferring with its sources, and suggesting that the event will, in fact, deal with publishing, iBooks, and Newsstand.

Alexia Tsotsis:

According to the source the event will not involve any hardware at all and instead will focus on publishing and eBooks (sold through Apple’s iBooks platform) rather than iAds. Attendance will also be more publishing industry-oriented than consumer-focused.

The event will unveil improvements to the iBooks platform, according to the same source, and is not “major.” I’m still trying to track down other details, such as the exact day and time and will keep you posted. My request for more information was sent to Apple via email and has not yet been responded to.

Swisher has also stated that the Apple SVP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, will be present for the event, thus lending credence to the publishing focus of the event.

The moral of the story? It's certainly not the iPad 3 or the Apple TV, and the event is more than likely going to be aimed primarily at the publishing industry, not the average consumer. See Apple's joint release of The Daily last year for further reference.