Taking a chance and not liking what I see so far.
In late February and early March, I spent about 2 weeks porting my existing 242-page iBooks Author book to iBooks Author software for publication as an iBooks 2-compatible interactive (or “enhanced”) ebook.
Moving over the text wasn’t a huge deal — mostly copy and paste, followed by the application of styles I’d created or modified for my custom iBooks Author template. But rather than simply copy and paste the 100+ screenshots that are part of the print, epub, and Kindle format books, I decided to rely on videos to tell the story. So I spent most of that time recording a total of 3 hours of original video content based on the numbered step-by-step instructions in the book. I also used the Gallery widget and created an illustrated Glossary.
The final book turned out to be 150 pages and 1.3 GB in size. And it looked awesome (if I do say so myself) — the perfect example of how a iBooks Author could be used to create how-to content.
The Waiting Begins
I submitted the files to Apple via iTunes Connect on Sunday and began waiting for approval.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday — I spent the week waiting. It’s now Friday and I’m still waiting.
In iTunes Connect, the book’s status remains:
Book In Review. This book is currently being reviewed for quality assurance.
A New Week brings New Developments
I’d already committed to converting my Making Movies book to iBooks Author format. Because the video for that book already existed — I used video clips taken from the example movie — the creation process was much quicker. I figure I put a total of 10 hours into the conversion process. I submitted it today.
And that’s when I discovered two things:
- Apple no longer allows submissions of books created with iBooks Author 1.0 (or 1.0.1). It requires the latest version, released the other day, iBooks Author 1.1, which includes support for the new iPad. My iBooks Author book was created with the previous version. Is that what’s holding up approval?
- A warning appeared on screen when I attempted to upload my 233 MB book, telling me that Apple recommends that books be no larger than 200 MB because some users might have trouble downloading a larger book file. My iBooks Author book was considerably larger than this. Is that what’s holding up approval?
Of course, there’s no way of knowing. Apple’s iTunes Connect/iBookstore support is absolutely dismal. If you ask a question, you’re lucky to get a response in less than a week — if you get any response at all. And that response is likely to be “canned” — in other words, boilerplate text possibly chosen at random by the support person who handled your request.
Rejection Could Be Painful
And nagging away at the back of my mind is a blog post by Seth Godin where he reported that his book had been rejected from the iBookstore because it contained links to printed books on Amazon.com.
While my book doesn’t contain any offensive links — at least I don’t think it does — what if Apple decides to reject it because it’s too big? In the wrong format? They don’t like my videos?
All I can think of is the hours and hours of work I put into that edition, possibly wasted on the whim of some reviewer at Apple.
Apple Needs to Get Serious
Today I read a blog post on TUAW about the antitrust lawsuit the U.S. Department of Justice is apparently mounting against Apple. In it was this line:
Apple says that it wants to sell as many ebooks as possible, which is totally believable since the company is still a relative bit player in the ebook market.
From where I sit, I don’t see Apple being very serious about this at all. If Apple were serious, it would have a much better process in place to review and approve iBookstore submissions. After all, you can’t “sell as many ebooks as possible” if dozens or hundreds of them are stalled in the approval process day after day for a week or more. It wouldn’t be rejecting ebooks because it doesn’t like the links they include. And it certainly wouldn’t generate frustration and dissatisfaction among content creators — the people actually creating the books they supposedly want to sell.
Call Me an Idiot
I’ll beat a few of you to the punchline by admitting that I look like an idiot.
Back in January, when everyone was voicing outrage over the iBooks Author EULA, I wrote a blog post that told people they were basically worrying about nothing. In response to concerns about the approval process, I said:
I see Apple’s approval process as a GOOD thing. Right now, there’s nothing stopping anyone from publishing any crap they want as an ebook and distributing through services like Amazon Kindle. This is a far cry from publishing as we’ve known it, where only authors and works approved and edited by an experienced, professional publishing company team would be published. Apple’s review process helps weed out the crap and make its library of content more valuable to iBookstore shoppers. While some folks might be fearful that Apple will not approve their work, I’m not — and you shouldn’t be either. People who can turn out quality work should have nothing to worry about as far as the approval process goes.
Now there is some concern over Apple using this power to censor content. For example, perhaps they refuse to publish a book that says negative things about Apple or its founders. (Remember how they pulled all of a certain publisher’s books out of the Apple Store after they published an unflattering biography of Steve Jobs some years back?) I’m not terribly worried about that, but I do admit that it is a possibility. Obviously, if there are documented examples of Apple not approving something that should be approved, I’d be willing to revisit this point. For now, however, I don’t think it’s an issue.
Yes, I’m an idiot.
I didn’t realize that Apple’s approval process had the potential to be slow and unfair.
I naively assumed that Apple was concerned with quality — after all, isn’t that what’s holding up my book: a quality review? And quality didn’t worry me because I know I can create quality work.
But what if it’s some other criteria that Apple’s reviewers are concerned with? Something other than links to Amazon.com? File size, file format. Or, worse yet, something I can’t fix? And how will I know? When will I know?
Every day that book isn’t in the iBookstore is a day that I — and my partner, Apple — don’t sell any copies.
What to Do?
What’s the right answer? The right approach?
Well, I can tell you one thing for sure: I’m not going to waste another second of my time assembling yet another title in iBooks Author and submitting it to the void via iTunes Connect.
Instead, I’ll wait — as if I have any other option — and see approach. And I’ll use this experience to guide me for future submissions created with iBooks Author.
Got any iBook Author/iBookstore stories you want to share? Comment on this post.
March 19. 2012 Update: It has now been more than two weeks since I submitted my first iBooks Author-created book for approval to the iBookstore. I am still waiting for approval. This is not a good sign, folks. If you’ve already gone through the approval process, please take a moment to tell us how long it took. And if you’re waiting, please let us know how long you’ve been waiting. I’ll update this when (or if?) my book is approved.
March 28, 2012 Update: I finally heard from Apple about the first book I submitted. It had a number of trademark-related issues that needed to be resolved. I wrote about them here.
May 1, 2012 Update: While I was traveling, my iBooks Author book was finally approved. I believe the final count of days until approval was about 55. I removed the count up timer. My Making Movies book has still not been approved. I feel completely idiotic that I actually believed my books would be reviewed within a week.
May 23, 2012 Update: My Making Movies book was finally approved. I believe the final count of days until approved was 75. The last 3 weeks was spent nagging Apple to explain why it was holding back the book for metadata issues without putting a “ticket” on it.