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The Whiny Little Bitch Contingent meets iBooks Author

Let me introduce you to the “Whiny Little Bitch Contingent”. This was a term I coined in the late 2000’s to cover the Java developers who cried and moaned about the slow decline in Apple’s support for Java: the deprecation of the Cocoa-Java bridge, the long wait for Java 6 on Mac OS X, its absence from iOS, etc. Every time there was news on this front, they could be reliably counted on to dredge up Steve Jobs’ pledge at the JavaOne 2000 keynote to make the Mac the best Java programming environment… and to bring this up in seeming ignorance of the passage of many years, the changes in the tech world, the abject failure of Desktop Java, other companies’ broken promises (Sony’s pledge of Java on the PlayStation 2, the Java-based Phantom gaming console), etc.

The obvious trait of the Whiny Little Bitch Contingent is their sense of entitlement: companies like Apple owe us stuff. The more subtle trait is their ignorance of the basic principle that people, organizations, and companies largely operate in their own self-interest. Apple got interested in Java when it seemed like a promising way to write Mac apps (or, a promising way to get developers to write Mac apps). When that failed, they had understandably little interest in providing developers a means of writing apps for other platforms. I’m sure I’m not the only person to write a Java webapp on the Mac that I knew my employer would block Mac clients from actually using. By 2008, when Apple entered the mobile market with the iPhone, there was nothing about supporting Java that would appeal to Apple’s self-interest, outside of a small number of hardware sales to Java developers.

That’s what defines the WLBC to me: sense of entitlement, and an igorance of other parties’ self-interest (which leads to an expectation of charity and thus the sense of entitlement).

So, yesterday, Apple holds an event to roll out their whole big deal with Textbooks on the iPad. They look pretty, they’ve got an economic model that may make some sense for publishers (i.e., it may be in the publishers’ self-interest), etc. Also, there’s a tool for creating textbooks in Apple’s format.

And this is where the Whiny Little Bitch Contingent goes ape-shit. Because there’s a clause in the iBooks Author EULA that says if you’re going to charge for your books, you can only publish to Apple’s iBookstore.

So, let’s back up a second. The only point of this software is to feed Apple’s content chain. The only reason it is being offered, free, is to lure authors and publishers to use Apple’s stuff… which in turn sells more iPads and gives Apple a 30% cut. If you are not going to put stuff on Apple’s store, why do you even care about this? Hell, I don’t develop for Microsoft’s platforms, so if they see the need to turn Visual Studio into an adventure game… hey that’s their problem.

If you’re not authoring for Apple’s iBookstore, why do you even care what iBooks Author does, or what’s in its EULA?

In decrying the “cold cynicism” of Apple’s iBook EULA, Marshall Kirkpatrick writes:

It’s hard to wrap my brain around the cold cynicism of Apple’s releasing a new tool to democratize the publishing of eBooks today, only to include in the tool’s terms and conditions a prohibition against selling those books anywhere but through Apple’s own bookstore

“Democratize the publishing of eBooks”? Where the hell did he get that? Maybe he watched the video and fell for the grandiosity and puffery… I never actually watch these Apple dog-and-pony shows anymore, as following the Twitter discussion seems to give me the info I need. But thinking that Apple is in the business of democratizing anything is nuts: they’re in the business of selling stuff, and the only reason they’d give out a free tool is to get you to help them sell more of that stuff.

I didn’t download iBooks Author, even though you’d expect an Apple-skewing author like me to be one of the first onboard. Frankly, I’m pretty tired of writing, as the last two books have been difficult experiences, and the thought of starting another book, even with a 70% royalty instead of 5%, is not that appealing. A year ago I thought about self-publishing a book on AV Foundation, but right now I lack the will (also, I’ve failed to fall in love with AV Foundation, and blanch at its presumptions, limitations, and lack of extensibility… I much prefer the wild and wooly QuickTime or Core Audio).

So, if we’re going to talk about iBooks Author, let me know how it holds up for long documents: if it’s pretty on page 1, is it still usable when you’re 200 pages in? Does it offer useful tools for managing huge numbers of assets? Does it provide its own revision system and change tracking, or does it at least play nicely with Subversion and Git? Can it be used in a collaborative environment? These are interesting questions, at least to people who plan to use the tool to publish books on the iBookstore.

But if Apple’s not giving you a pretty, free tool you can use to write .mobi files that Amazon can sell Kindles with? Sorry, Whiny Little Bitch Contingent, I’ve got zero sympathy for you there. Call it a third party opportunity. Or just put on your big boy underwear and do it yourself.

Take it, Geddy:

You don’t get something for nothing
You can’t have freedom for free
You won’t get wise
With the sleep still in your eyes
No matter what your dreams might be

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