As Apple invites authors to self-publish, publishers become a bit less relevant

Last week Apple started offering book authors the option of submitting their books directly to the iBookstore.   Why is this different than what could already be done with Amazon?  For one thing, the iPad is a hot new device that is igniting a revolution in how people interact with computers and all kinds of media.  While this should not be relevant, in a round about sort of way it really is.

Anyone that is following what goes on around and about the iPad must have heard or read something about Apple’s App Store.  Since Apple introduced the iPhone SDK, almost two years ago, a large number of developers flocked to the platform.  One of the most attractive points for developers was the ability to have your application available for immediate download, direct from the user’s phone.  The users could browse the catalog of applications, choose those that they liked and have them downloaded almost instantaneously to their devices.

Apple also offered a deal in which it would take a 30% cut of all sales, leaving the developer with 70% of the price asked for the application.   Not a bad deal overall.

Now, why shouldn’t book authors have the same possibilities open to them?   While both groups work in very different fields, they share many similarities and commonalities.   Both book authors and software developers work in creative fields in which one can either work alone or in groups.  There are software applications for every need and want, just as there books for every need and an want.

Being both a traditionally published author and a software developer I submit that these fields have much more in common than one might immediately consider and that without meaning to Apple has taken, not the first, but one more step in bringing these groups closer to self sufficiency.

The App Store allows a single developer to get world wide distribution of his application, almost instantly, without the need for a large support staff.  Now the iBookstore does the same for book authors.  As Mike Cane would recommend, any author wanting to take that route should make sure to thoroughly read the agreement they’ll be asked to sign with Apple, to ensure that they are not signing over any rights they might come to regret in the future.   This is a very important point to have in mind  as this is a new program from Apple and details of how all aspects will work are still to be widely discussed.

I know that the first reaction of publishers will be what it has always been:  authors need editors.  Original manuscripts need review and revision.  Books many times need illustrators and designers.  Only publishers can provide an author with all those necessary services that help turn the author’s work into the final printed book.  Well… surprise, surprise… Software developers need testers and quality assurance.  They need designers and their code more often than not, needs revision.  Still… Many developers manage to bring products to market all by themselves.  Others, engage the services of the professionals they need to complement their abilities.

Before the Internet made digital downloads the best way to sell software to the whole world, developers used to need distributors and sometimes publishers, when they couldn’t afford the cost of printing manuals, recording media and packaging.  Those days are long gone now.  How long will it take for authors to reach the same independence?

*Images: Apple.

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