iBooks Author is a new piece of software from Apple that allows you, or me, to author and distribute iBooks and enhanced media books. In my view, it’s one of the most significant software releases of all time.
I’m not really one for hyperbole, but at one fell stroke, the face of publishing has changed. It’s not that you couldn’t self publish before, it’s just that it was not easy. Today, it’s easy. Garage Band made it easy for anyone to make music and distribute it from their laptop. iMovie did the same for films. iBooks is the next part of the jigsaw. I honestly believe that this will change what we read, how we read it and how we think about and pay for content.
Since Gutenberg built his printing press in the fifteenth century, the Publisher has been the gatekeeper between people who write content and people who read it. The entire publication industry is geared up to the selection, quality assurance and distribution of books, and, on the whole, it does a pretty good job of it. There are many wonderful, beautiful, incredible and formidable books out there.
But there are many more that never made it. Many of these were rejected because they were no good. Some just never got written, or never got chosen. Many of these decisions were made on the basis that ‘content’ had monetary value, that the role of the author was a way of making money, and as there is only so much money to be made, not everyone could have a slice.
Today, the world is different. Everyone can produce and everyone can publish. I can write an album, a book and make a film, and i can do it all this weekend.
The model is not without it’s risks. The publication industry has nurtured and developed the careers of many of our favourite authors. They invest in marketing and promotion and set up collaborations and publications that give incredible opportunities to new and established authors.
And they edit.
The things we lack with self publication is any independent editing, and it’s more important than you might think. The internet has shown us that the challenge is not usually to find information, it’s to find good information or to know that what you are reading is ‘right’. The reality is that if i buy a history book from a well known publisher, i am going to assume that it’s factually correct. I can’t say the same about something i just read online. The quality assurance and peer review that we get through publishing is highly significant.
I’m sure that other models may emerge, but they are not there yet. Maybe authors will establish and own peer communities that act as plebeian publishers, cooperatives of respected brainpower and authority?
Coinciding with this software release, Apple has introduced iTextbooks, aimed straight at students, with high media content and interactivity. As you’d expect, these are beautiful items, ‘books’ that could cement the iPad as the technology of choice for students. As books become iBooks, then interactive iTextbooks, the experience of reading changes. I couldn’t honestly tell you if it’s still a book, or more of an enhanced website, or maybe the old distinctions of ‘paper’, ‘magazine’, ‘film’ are now outdated, and we just have ‘content’?
It’s a hugely exciting time to witness what’s happening. It’s a time to be bold around publication and authoring models. It’s a time for change.