Apple iBooks 2 license agreement gets icy reception in higher education

It hasn’t shocked many who have followed the company’s business tactics.

“It’s not surprising, given the way Apple behaves with apps and other kinds of content,” said Nicole Allen, an open textbook activist for the Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), which pushed for open textbook use at campuses nationwide last fall. “We need to keep in mind that they are a company that exists to make money. They set up [iBooks 2] this way to maximize profits. … Apple entering the textbook market doesn’t mean anything will be solved.”

Small private colleges and universities that haven’t experienced the budgetary stagnation of most campuses might be able to supplement large-scale Apple iPad purchases for students, but the digital books made available in the iBooks Bookstore will remain off-limits to most college students, Frank said.

“Apple has always said they prefer a closed system over one that might compromise the user experience by using something more open,” he said. “When you’re talking about [iTunes] and music, that’s OK, but in education, the argument falls apart. … No one wants to limit access to educational materials.”

Bott wrote shortly after Apple’s iBooks 2 unveiling that the program’s license could lead to a “nightmare scenario” for textbook authors: After writing a textbook and submitting it to Apple, the company rejects it, which—under the company’s agreement—means the author cannot sell the book for profit.

“Under this license agreement, you are out of luck,” Bott wrote. “They won’t sell it, and you can’t legally sell it elsewhere.”

John Gruber, a blogger who tracks Apple’s announcements and business strategies on the site Daring Fireball, dubbed the iBooks 2 license agreement “Apple at its worst” because of its stipulations for those who create content and have it rejected by the company.

“Apple …  is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output,” Gruber wrote. “It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. As far as I know, in the consumer software industry, this practice is unprecedented.”

Allen from Student PIRGs said Apple could have helped the open textbook movement move closer to higher education’s mainstream. The company’s myriad licensing restrictions, however, only presented a commercial alternative to a nationwide effort to bring high-quality textbooks to college students for less than the current $1,000 per year.

“It brings to mind the quote, ‘Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains,’” Allen said. “The only thing I can hope is that this is the first step—and [iBooks 2] will go through many iterations before it’s finalized.”

Comments are closed.

"(Required)" indicates required fields