Want to be published? There’s an app for that.

Lately, I’ve been doing research on a topic that has recently captivated my interest: digital publishing. I love books, and digital publishing is something I want to learn more about, especially because of its effects on the publishing industry. I am in the process of writing a research paper on digital publishing for my digital writing class, and I’ve found some really interesting articles regarding the latest developments in digital publishing.

For example, Apple has produced an app, called the iBook Author App, that allows users to create their own customized textbooks and publish them through iBooks. The app was originally intended for teachers and educators as a way for them to create their own educational materials for students, but this app can also be used for other purposes. The app contains features such as templates, much like the themes found on WordPress, or design templates found on Microsoft PowerPoint, that provide a ready-made look for the book, with designated areas for text and/or graphics. The app was designed with a multimedia interface in mind. Not only do writers have the options of adding graphics to their books; they can also add widgets, including video, interactive 3D graphics, and interactive photo galleries. Moreover, the app was also designed with readers with disabilities in mind, featuring widgets that allow readers with vision impairments to be able to use the iBook as well.

Template feature for the iBook Author App

This app has truly re-defined the concept of the book and the way a book presents its information. However, with this new advancement in self-publishing, what does this mean for professional authors? As an intern at a publishing company, I have seen just how long and convoluted the process is for an author to publish a book. Merely having an idea for a book does not automatically convince publishers–publishers need various documents such as proposals and abstracts to see exactly what the author’s intention for the book is. Then, the proposal goes through an evaluation process to see if it will be successful. If a proposal gets approved, the author subsequently submits a manuscript, which then gets edited, and usually, the final draft of the manuscript is very different from the original first draft.

On the other hand, with the iBook Author app, the writer has complete control over how he or she chooses to present, argue, and write the book. The writer does not need to go through the process of getting approved for publishing, and he or she does not need to submit a manuscript to be edited. This app allows the author to be not only the writer, but also the designer, the editor, and the publisher. In traditional publishing, a production department is in charge of making a manuscript look like a book, choosing the book covers, etc. However, this app gives the author control over all of that. How will an app like this affect publishing companies, where separate departments oversee different aspects of a book? Will it affect jobs in these different departments, and in the industry in general? Will this lead to a difference in quality when it comes to books, because virtually anyone who downloads the app can publish?

However, there are some catches. As stated in this article, Apple’s license agreement states that if an author produces materials through iBooks and distributes them with charge, that work can only be distributed under Apple, and not anywhere else. Apple owns the rights to materials created through iBooks, but the author reserves rights to any materials created independently and not through the iBooks author app. Although the app provides a means for writers to self-publish, and even earn revenue from it, it has limitations that publishing companies do not have, such as its accessibility. Users who want to access a work created through iBooks need to have an Apple device, or a means to view the book through iBooks–unlike an e-book that can be viewed online, or even a print book, that can be purchased by anyone.

The iBook Author app opens up many new possibilities for those looking to publish, but as of right now, it looks like publishing companies are here to stay.

“The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.” –Rene Descartes