After iBooks Author's announcement and release today, would-be writers began delving into the tool to see how it worked and what restrictions might be placed on it. Unfortunately, one of those restrictions is relatively onerous: Apple's End User License Agreement stipulates that books created with the tool can only be sold through Apple's iBookstore. As with other content sold through Apple's store, the company takes a 30 percent cut of all sales. Dan Wineman made the initial discovery, which applies only to books that are to be sold, not to books that are meant to be given away for free. iBooks Author can export to text, PDF, or Apple's custom iBooks format, which Erica Sadun notes is a variant on the ePub format. An exported iBooks Author file can apparently be massaged into a more traditional ePub file (minus Apple's iBooks-specific features) as well. So while it's not easy to use iBooks Author to create ebooks that could be read by non-Apple devices, it's theoretically possible.
The troubling aspects of Apple's EULA are twofold. First, it's chilling to release a content creation tool — even if free — that restrictions the author's ability to distribute or sell works created with that tool. As Wineman points out, it would be analogous to "Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty." The effect of the policy is to flat-out prohibit the selling of printed copies of the book. Secondly, all iBooks made available for sale in the iBookstore are wrapped in Digital Rights Management software that limits their distribution to Apple's iBooks app, which severely limits the ability to archive, share, or re-sell any for-sale ebook created with the software.
iBooks Author may be a great creation tool for making iBooks, but unless Apple decides to rethink this policy, it is not a great tool for creating ebooks.