Geo Week News

January 21, 2012

Is new Apple ibook Author the next great deliverable platform?


Many of you may have been as excited as I was about Apple’s announcement last Thursday that they were entering the textbook market. One of the limiting factors of working with dynamic, 3D data is trying to convey what it contains in the static 2D formats that are the standards in most industries. The idea of the mass adoption of e-books that allow for text, video, sound, and a multi-touch user interaction seems almost too good to be true! I rushed to download Apple’s ibook Author and was incredibly impressed until I saw the End User License Agreement (EULA). As it turns out, using ibook Author means agreeing to the EULA and the EULA states that, “If you charge a fee for any book or other work you generate using this software (a “Work”), you may only sell or distribute such Work through Apple (e.g., through the iBookstore) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple.” What does that seperate agreement state? It says that Apple gets 30% of the sales price off the top. Not to mention that in order to sell a book in the iBookstore you have to be issued an ISBN number which will cost you anywhere from $100-150. The ISBN number I can deal with (although they are much cheaper in bulk and I’d like to see someone buy a bunch to resell and undercut the current market rate) but the restriction of my use of my work drives me crazy. It would be like Google taking a cut of my pay for writing for SPARView because I used Chrome to post the article on the SPAR servers.

Sure, making a book is quick and easy, but what about making a buck?

A little work in the application shows Apple’s flair for design and intuitive interfaces. I was able to pull data from a Power Point presentation, an Adobe Premiere project and some marketing PDFs to make a beautiful e-book in under two hours. It looked great on my iPad and with the exception of a few “rookie” mistakes it functioned perfectly! If you can supply your field crews with iPads I can think of no better way to produce training manuals. And thankfully, as long as you give them away for free you don’t have to cut Apple in (or get an ISBN number). I’m also interested in using it as a presentation tool. Connecting the iPad to a projector would allow you to drive through the book and provide audiences and clients an alternative to the dreaded “Death by Power Point” that we’ve all experienced.

So, between the wonderful work environment and the awful EULA, where do I stand? I’m willing to take a wait and see attitude toward the legal enforcement of Apple’s EULA. It’s getting a ton of bad press and hopefully Apple will rethink the “we own the distribution rights to everything” model they put in place. I don’t plan on making any e-books to sell, so it doesn’t really bother me financially at this point. However, I have really taken a liking to e-books for the first time. As a result I have already started looking at other applications that allow me to not only author the e-books but control their distribution as well. They all cost more than Apple’s “free” ibook Author but in this case, you really do get what you pay for.

Lastly, I received several emails concerning last week’s Blog “Where to Go When You Need to Know” with suggestions and recommendations of other sources for information on the world of 3D imaging. By far, the most mentioned was Gene Roe’s LiDAR News. This site covers a ton of industry news and is updated more often than any other site dedicated to 3D imaging. Frankly, I’m not sure how I left it out last week.

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