The Trouble With The Suppliers of Software For Digital Publishing of eBooks and Apps

The digital publishing of ebooks and apps is still very much in its infancy, as is the provision of software to make this easier. Yet there is a major problem already obvious, the costing models for production software.


iBooks Author is free software for the creation of interactive books for the iPad

Publishers are used to a buy and use model for the software we use. We are very used to buying the Adobe Creative Suite or Quark Xpress and then, once we have bought it, the only cost is when we want to upgrade to the latest model. Nobody pays a fee per print magazine published or per book published. And frankly I doubt if any publisher would do so. Software is like office furniture; you buy it once and then keep using it.

But too many of the producers of software for digital publishing, whether it is Adobe, Quark or one of the myriad smaller companies, have a different model in mind. They want to either charge you per book design or magazine issue, per issue or book sold or a combination of both. For them it makes great sense – they create an on-going revenue stream. But for a publisher this is a disaster. It means that the production costs of a title may no longer be fixed, it may continue to grow as long as it is available for purchase. This could make publishing a back catalogue of titles that may sell little but, if you have enough of them out there, might provide a reasonable revenue stream. Not so if there is a yearly cost of continuing to offer each title. Now of course they’ll probably justify this in terms of the provision of server space for things like in-app purchase, or such like. But we all know that server space is now ludicrously cheap, or even free. When two to seven gigabytes of online file sharing storage is available for nothing from many sources it becomes very hard to justify on-going fees. And in many situations there is no need to providing hosting since they are hosted by the Apple Store or Amazon.

Until the developers of these tools realise that there is going to be on-going resistance from publishers to anything other than an outright buy the software and use it as you will model there will be continued resistance to these tools. Sure iBooks Author only outputs to the Apple Store, but it is free. Let’s hope Amazon provide something similar for interactive books on the Kindle Fire. We can hope that some enlightened company will produce something that is cross platform and can just be bought outright, and used at will.

No sensible person minds paying for upgrades, any sensible businessman resists bringing in a silent partner who requires paying all the time.


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