Saturday, January 21, 2012

Apple's mind-bogglingly greedy and evil license agreement By Ed Bott | January 19, 2012, 1:32pm PST

Summary: Over the years, I have read hundreds of license agreements, looking for little gotchas and clear descriptions of rights. But I have never, ever seen a legal document like the one Apple has attached to its new iBooks Author program.

I read EULAs so you don’t have to. I’ve spent years reading end user license agreements, EULAs, looking for little gotchas or just trying to figure out what the agreement allows and doesn’t allow.

I have never seen a EULA as mind-bogglingly greedy and evil as Apple’s EULA for its new ebook authoring program.

Dan Wineman calls it “unprecedented audacity” on Apple’s part. For people like me, who write and sell books, access to multiple markets is essential. But that’s prohibited:

Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. 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.
Exactly: Imagine if Microsoft said you had to pay them 30% of your speaking fees if you used a PowerPoint deck in a speech.

I’ve downloaded the software and had a chance to skim the EULA. Much of it is boilerplate, but I’ve read and re-read Section 2B, and it does indeed go far beyond any license agreement I’ve ever seen:

B. Distribution of your Work. As a condition of this License and provided you are in compliance with its terms, your Work may be distributed as follows:
  • (i) if your Work is provided for free (at no charge), you may distribute the Work by any available means;
  • (ii) if your Work is provided for a fee (including as part of any subscription-based product or
  • service), you may only distribute the Work through Apple and such distribution is subject to the following limitations and conditions: (a) you will be required to enter into a separate written agreement with Apple (or an Apple affiliate or subsidiary) before any commercial distribution of your Work may take place; and (b) Apple may determine for any reason and in its sole discretion not to select your Work for distribution.

And then the next paragraph is bold-faced, just so you don’t miss it:
Apple will not be responsible for any costs, expenses, damages, losses (including
without limitation lost business opportunities or lost profits) or other liabilities you may incur as a result of your use of this Apple Software, including without limitation the fact that your Work may not be selected for distribution by Apple.
The nightmare scenario under this agreement? You create a great work of staggering literary genius that you think you can sell for 5 or 10 bucks per copy. You craft it carefully in iBooks Author. You submit it to Apple. They reject it.

Under this license agreement, you are out of luck. They won’t sell it, and you can’t legally sell it elsewhere. You can give it away, but you can’t sell it. Updated to add: By “it,” I am referring to the book, not the content. The program allows you to export your work as plain text, with all formatting stripped. So you do have the option to take the formatting work you did in iBooks Author, throw it away, and start over. That is a devastating potential limitation for an author/publisher. Outputting as PDF would preserve the formatting, but again the license would appear to prohibit you from selling that work, because it was generated by iBooks Author.

One oddity I noticed in the agreement is that the term Work is not defined. [Update: Yes, it is, as I noticed on a fourth reading. It's in an "Important Note" above the agreement itself: "any book or other work you generate using this software (a 'Work')." Of course, that uses the term "work" recursively.] It’s capitalized in the relevant sections of the EULA, and it clearly is the thing of value that Apple wants from an author. Leaving that term so poorly defined is not exactly malpractice, but it’s sloppy lawyering.

I’m also hearing, but have not been able to confirm, that the program’s output is not compatible with the industry-standard EPUB format. Updated: An Apple support document notes that “¦iBooks uses the ePub file format” and later refers to it as “the industry-leading ePub digital book file type.” But iBooks Author will not export its output to that industry-leading format.

My longtime friend Giesbert Damaschke, a German author who has written numerous Apple-related books, says via Twitter that “iBA generates Epub (sort of): save as .ibooks, rename to .epub (won’t work with complex layouts, cover will be lost).” Even if that workaround produces a usable EPUB file, however, the license agreement would seem to explicitly prohibit using the resulting file for commercial purposes outside Apple’s store.

As a publisher and an author, I obviously have a dog in this hunt. But what I see so far makes this program and its output an absolute nonstarter for me.

I’ll be writing more fully on this issue after I’ve had a chance to use the program and to inspect the EULA under a microscope.

Oh, and let’s just stipulate that I could send an e-mail to Apple asking for comment, or I could hand-write my request on a sheet of paper and then put it in a shredder. Both actions would produce the same response from Cupertino. But if anyone from Apple would care to comment, you know where to find me.

Taken from "The Ed Bott Report"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Building Character by Teresa Kennedy

There’s an old joke which goes: “There are two kinds of people in the world—those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t.”
There’s a similar line of thinking when it comes to novels and novelists—there are those that think the plot should drive the character and those who think the character should drive the plot. Conventional wisdom dictates that character-driven fiction tends to come under the umbrella of “literary” fiction, while plot -driven works tend to be oriented to a specific genre or category.
Regardless of what you’re writing though, all successful fiction depends upon your ability to create memorable characters in memorable situations. In order to become really engaged in your story, the reader needs to care. And because we share a common humanity, it’s a pretty safe bet they will care first about your characters and second, about what happens to them as the plot unfolds.
Very often, writers rely on characterization   to create a character, when it’s only half the job. As readers, we can wade through a whole lot of information--where Bob lives, what he had for breakfast, what he wore to work, whether he needs to lose ten pounds or hates his wife’s new perfume and tells bad jokes--and still not know anything about him, much less engage with him on some kind of emotional level. And while characterization is certainly important, you haven’t really built a character until the writer uses each of those outer qualities to somehow illustrate the inner life of the man. That means those cold scrambled eggs, his expanding waistline, underpaid job and the lingering smell of that hateful perfume all need to reveal something about how Bob feels about himself and his world.
Plot driven fiction can also give a character short shrift if it relies on situation alone to determine the outcome of the story. Becky may be a young mother and a promising law student unwittingly caught up in an international conspiracy, but nobody is going to care unless being in that situation somehow changes Becky forever. Placing her  “in danger” is simply not enough. It may be that she overcomes incredible obstacles, catches the villains and keeps the world safe for Democracy, but it isn’t going to mean a thing unless she learns something about herself in the process. Maybe the experience changes her priorities, maybe she learns the good guys aren’t always good and that they don’t always win—but whatever her revelation, Becky has to be the one to resolve the plot for the reader in such a way that they are satisfied with the outcome. Otherwise she’s just a person that things happen to—not a person who makes things happen.
To build real, believable and memorable characters, an author has to go the extra mile. It helps to know what makes people tick, but even more important is your willingness to really become those characters, body mind and spirit. It means setting aside your own opinions and judgments and even a really good outline when they depart from the script. It means feeling their pain and sharing their joy, and experiencing their conflicts in sometimes excruciating detail.  And for an author that can be both exhausting and incredibly rewarding. As the great actress Meryl Streep has said (and it’s certainly as true for a writer as an actor,) To take someone in a really precarious position and truly inhabit their mind and soul is a very dangerous thing to do."
But the results can indeed, be memorable.