Gruber on the iBooks File Format

I’ve been following the iBooks Author discussions with a lot of interest, and I find myself among those (like David Sparks) whose reservations and questions aren’t strong enough to quash the enthusiasm for what we all might be making. As is often the case, a post from John Gruber — Friday's "On the Proprietary Nature of the iBooks Author File Format“ — has tweaked my understanding of the Apple offering. From the piece:

The output of iBooks Author is no more intended to be an industry standard than are any other Apple-proprietary document formats — Pages, Numbers, Keynote, etc. This is Apple’s own e-book format, intended only to be displayed (played?) using Apple’s own software running on Apple’s own devices. 

As with the end-user licensing kerfuffle, it’s worth noting that the app’s name is iBooks Author, not eBooks Author. Just because there’s demand for an open-standards-based e-book production and layout tool of the scope and caliber of iBooks Author, doesn’t mean Apple has any interest in making such a tool.


In some sense this is like a rehash of the App Store debate — iBooks Author is a developer tool for the iBooks platform.


[Daniel] Glazman looks at these new iBooks books and sees a nonstandard proprietary format. Apple looks at these new iBooks and sees layouts and design features that no other e-book platform offers today. One man’s nonstandard is another man’s competitive differentiation.

I plan to take iBooks Author for a spin in the coming months and will report back on my own experience.