Today, Andy Ihnatko, a man infinitely smarter than me, published his guesses about the Apple tablet. It’s truly great stuff, head and shoulders and torso and a bit of thigh above what you get from the nauseatingly regurgitating tech websites of 2010.
Here’s a bit where he may be right, but I hope he’s not: he argues that Apple will not get into publishing; not of books, not of periodicals, not of anything. They will leave that to the publishers. O’Reilly can make their own bookstore/reader app, as can Time magazine.
Now here’s Andy’s advice to the you’s and me’s of the world, individuals wanting to publish a li’l something of our own:
Are you an independent publisher? Or maybe even just an author with a collection of short-stories? Great. Hook up with an iPhone developer and hand over a copy of your book in PDF or HTML format. He or she can quickly stick it in an app wrapper and you can release it as an saleable ebook without going through any publishers or distributors. There’s no vetting process; Apple is happy to just take 30 percent of the purchase price.
My main problem here is that virtually nothing about this process is “great”. The process is possible, it’s going to get easier, and it may be exactly what Apple has in mind, but guess what: it sucks, sucks with tremendous force.
A friend of a friend is a professional writer, and he wanted to sell a previously unpublished book on the iPhone. Friend #2 is in just that business, so they got together and made a book-reader app, spiced up the UI, and laid out the book.
This took more than six months.
They’re both very, very smart people. The writer was very motivated. The developer put other developers on the project. They had reasonably high standards (the end result looks great) but the project wasn’t held back by any Kubrickian pedantry.
It’s just that development takes time. It especially takes time when your budget is next to nothing and you’re already busy as hell, as any capable iPhone developer is. Once the book was out, it was never going to earn enough to cover the time put into it.
Yes, this is a “solution”, but it can’t even begin to compare to the solution I’d love to see: a publishing process so simple, the code-ignorant writer friend (of a friend) could’ve walked himself through it in, oh, an hour.
I mean, look at me. I’ve “developed” things (though not for the iPhone proper), I know dozens of insanely talented and friendly iPhone developers, and I actually have a thing I’d like to publish on the iPhone. And doing so is too much work for me. What about the next S. E. Hinton, how will she ever get started?
Do you have some great photos from your friends’ wedding and you want to make a nice book of those for said friends? Great. Hook up with a book maker and hand over a copy of your photos. He or she can quickly stick them in a book wrapper… Well, you see where I’m going with this.
I know where the analogy fails: publishing a work should, perhaps, require a little more responsibility, a few more barriers to entry. It’s done less frequently. You stand to make money. It’s meant for the whole world. It’s serious business.
But it would still be really great if you could do it yourself.