Surprise, Surprise, the iBooks Link is Live

The decision to indie publish a novel brings with it the frustrating requirement to venture well beyond the confines of a writer’s creative cocoon. Once the challenge of creating a good story well told no longer resides at the forefront of your effort, it’s time to think like a publisher.

Prior to the eBook revolution, that meant paying a “vanity publisher” to print a bunch of copies and send them to you. Putting your book in front of prospective buyers required loading a box of them into the trunk of your car and hitting the road. Horror stories abound to document the ineffectiveness of that approach.

But the world of publishing has changed. It’s not yet to the point of being able to put your book on the shelves of a brickand-mortar bookstore, but the limitless shelf space of the online store goes a long way toward creating a far more level playing field. An unknown author can in theory occupy a shelf next to a bestselling author.

All shelves are not created equal, of course, but my approach from the beginning has been to grab any opportunity for reaching potential readers. The “Where To Buy My Books” Page in the menu bar below the header contains links to the most popular online stores for eBook and print versions. Amazon also distributes to a number of additional outlets through their expanded plan.

Each online store contains different submission requirements in terms of the interior and cover files. The Apple iBookstore, accessible through iTunes, is one of the most restrictive because it requires that the uploaded interior file pass what is known as an “epubcheck.” For all but coders, this check is worthless because files that generate numerous errors with the check render without problems on ereaders.

Here’s an example of how differently a normal person and a typical coder think (if there is such a thing, and this is not intended to be a blanket badmouthing of those to whom code is beautiful).

As the oddball visitor to a forum, I asked someone to explain to me why an epub file I converted from Word rendered flawlessly on my computer using Adobe Digital Editions, a Nook, and an iPad, and yet it wouldn’t pass an epubcheck.

The reply: “You’re asking the wrong question. You should be asking why the ereaders render a flawed epub with bad code.” This guy was serious, and I dropped the conversation because it was obvious that we were approaching the problem from two diametrically opposed attitudes.

Apple also requires that authors apply for approval to sell content directly through iTunes without using an Apple Approved Aggregator. My post titled “I Hate Apple” describes the difficulties I had simply filling out an application. Once approved, it took another few weeks to deal with epubcheck issues. When I finally managed to upload the cover and interior files, I expected another delay before being notified that the book met standards and was accepted for publication.

This afternoon a friend happened to mention that he had downloaded the book to his iPad from iTunes. I had no idea it was for sale there.

But since it is, I’ve activated the link to Apple iBooks in spite of the fact that Apple has chosen to place obstacles in the way of potential buyers of my book. Unlike Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the other major stores, Apple does not provide multiple options for purchasing content from iTunes. It’s their way or the highway, apparently, and if you have a device with the iBooks app, the link will take you my book page with a link to iTunes for purchase and download.

Or, you can do what I later found out another friend did. Rather than shop in a tiny store with a relatively small selection of titles, he ordered the mobi version of Pilot Error for the Kindle from Amazon and downloaded the free Kindle for iPad application. Say what you will about Amazon and Apple as corporations, but I think we have to admit that from the perspective of the customer, Amazon tries very hard to make it easy to shop.

Apple, on the other hand, requires that you have a device with the iOS to order anything from their store. I’m the author, and I can’t even download a sample of my book to my MacBook Pro.

I don’t care how much money Apple is worth. I like their products, but their arrogance is aggravating in the extreme.

Thank you in advance if you decide to purchase a copy of Pilot Error from wherever you choose.

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