Since Apple announced their plans for world domination of electronic books a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been busy telling you about a few other business change issues. The MegaUpload/Carpathia story is huge, of course, and the new face of retail as envisioned by RentTheRunway is a big story. It’s hard to ignore Neil Young all but coming out in favor of music piracy, and I couldn’t let the sheer fun that is Jot.ly’s foray into the idea of rating everything get away. And I sure hope you read about Google Wallet and NFC’s non-invasion of the US market.
This is all business change, and worth looking at—and embracing. Now let’s talk about an eBook/iBook/iPad business change from Apple that should send you running the other way, screaming.
Apple’s latest foray into evil is iTunesU. It’s a great enough idea on the surface, bolstering real usefulness for the iPad, which at its heart is a great media consumption device, but not a very good computer. Even my girlfriend, a staunch “I won’t ever stop using paper books” hold-out, is using an iPad and starting to acknowledge what’s great about Apple’s little iToy.
But please ignore Apple’s rhetoric about iTunesU. Yes, there’s a benefit to being able to get all your books from one place, have them land in one portable device, and know that they’ll all follow the same format. Then again, you can buy a Kindle from Amazon and get the same thing, right?
I’m not defending Amazon, or taking sides. Amazon’s done some pretty creepy things with the Kindle, like when they censored George Orwell (let me point out that we’re at the top of Google’s search results for the phrase “Kindle Censorship”, by the way; that’s Search Engine Optimization). But as ZDNet’s Ed Bott pointed out, Apple’s co-opting an open standard for publishing, closing it down with Apple-specific extensions (that you may rest assured they’ll try to patent), and marketing the results at iTunesU as though they’re doing us all a favor.
Not a favor.
Apple wishes to become the new (and only!) book publisher. I’m not quite in favor of Seth Godin’s Domino Project for protecting the rights of authors, but I’d trust Seth Godin long before I trusted Apple. Honestly, I’d trust Louis CK before I trusted Apple.
Ed Bott’s analysis was over the top, and business change is … well, it’s business change; even a guy who’s been around as long as Ed—and I knew him back in the day; Ed Bott’s a smart guy—can get off the rails when business change is the topic. But iTunesU is designed from the ground up to be another Apple Control Monster.
OK, I take it back; if you’re planning to publish a book and don’t feel like you understand the business end of things well enough, maybe you should contact The Domino Project. Or even better, Contact The Answer Guy.