Monday, April 23, 2012

iBooks Author - publishing disintermediation

In the 1980s I learned a term called disintermediation - which described the process whereby many of us quit using financial intermediaries to conduct our business.   We began to use new financial products where we were the direct consumer.   But the term has a wider application.  Since I first encountered the term (the Merriam Webster dictionary dates the word to 1976) there have been a lot of markets that have disintermediated.

A few weeks ago Apple offered a free piece of software called iBooks Author.   It is really not very revolutionary, at first glance.   Like Pages, or iMovie, or iDVD, it is a piece of authoring software, offered for free, that allows an individual to create a book using a set of templates (or build your own) for all sorts of purposes.  The blurb around it suggested this would be a wonderful way for individuals to author textbooks.   When I first saw the software, I thought of at least one other use.  I am in the process of designing a book about my family's history for my children and grandchildren.   The template system allows someone with minimal creativity to put together attractive materials using someone else's structure. The beauty of this software is that it can include text, photos, video, weblinks, and almost any other kind of media.

The metaphor here is not new.  There have always been "vanity" presses.   And a few years ago Amazon began a process whereby individuals could self publish pretty easily.  (There are some other services that will allow you to do that too - Lulu is the easiest).  But what iBooks Author does is give you the tools to do all of this offline with relative ease.

So yesterday afternoon, in honor of my older grand-daughter's second birthday, I put together a short book in the voice of our new dog (who formerly lived at her house) telling about his adventures with us.   Like most Apple products, I avoided the tutorial and dove right in.  I am sure the first version of a project took me a bit longer than the second one will.  But the process was simple and straightforward.

The end result can be saved to a PDF or can actually be published through iTunes either as a free e-Book or as one that actually has a sales price.  To be able to publish to iTunes you need to have an additional (free) piece of software that formats the book into iTunes format and runs you through the legal issues of authoring a book (like assuring that you do not use copyrighted material).  

Unlike iMovie or Pages or any of the other authoring tools - this software has a tremendous possibility to disintermediate  markets, first the textbook market - where authors and students are not well served by the intermediary publishers who take their cut.   At the same time, it offers the ordinary individual who has some creative desire to be their own publisher.   Most of those publications will not see much distribution. I expect the dog book - when it goes up on iTunes to have total sales under 10.  But some will.   And that will make the publishing business all the more interesting.

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