Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The terrible iTunes Connect Application process

First, one needs an iTunes content provider account. If you already have one, and used it for publishing apps, you'll need a new one just to apply for iBooks.

Second, one needs to have a paid iBooks publishing account to sell iBooks.
Alternatively, one needs to have a free iBooks publishing account to give away iBooks.
You sign up here.

Apparently, it isn't in Apple's imagination to give free iBooks and sell others under the same account name.  Perhaps it simplifies things for someone in the process, or keeps the legalese straight. You can start free but if you want to sell you will need to apply for a new account. The two don't mix.

An aggregator can help ease the process of raw conversion to ePub format:

http://www.smashwords.com/about/how_to_publish_ipad_ebooks

Other aggregators are listed here.

Bear in mind it is unlikely to be suitable for publishing unless the content was originally designed for the iPad.

Even if you get your content into ePub, you still need to validate it.

http://threepress.org/document/epub-validate

is one way to do so.

I resell the oXygen XML Editor, which is a little more robust way of getting into the ePub format and validating it. Since ePub is XHTML based, one can target an ePub for creation via a transformation process that performs composition on components. That is, you don't need to write chapters linearly, but can use topical chunks instead.   This can have application to Teachers' Notes, Homework, Solved Problems, Problems to Solve, Quizzes and Tests, and other areas.

Importantly for solved problems, problems to solve, quizzes and tests, generic markup allows the materials to be parameterized. If one knows how the parameters of the problem relate to one another, one can provide a means of customizing materials by varying one or more parameters while also providing a level of sanity checking and guidance to the instructor via information contained in the markup.

For instance, probabilities are usually expressed as a decimal number between 0 and 1; this range could be specified as a limit of a parameter. Or suppose parameter B depends upon parameter A, in that any A in (0,1) maps to some particular B in (2,20).  Such relations can be expressed in markup and enacted on a device via a host language, for instance, EcmaScript, via browser/cloud-based customization Web tools,  or by a more traditional desktop application.

The question arises: how do we then get these customized ePubs distributed???

Apple's official process, if you can call it a process, is by way of iTunes. But for my trouble of applying over a month ago I have received neither a confirmation nor any other communication about the application's status. Apple's approach to communication is quite opaque.

Checking just now, it looks like they've either changed my password or deleted my original account, because I cannot log in...  I do a password reset and change it back to what 1Password said it should be... and it says:

Apple ID does not have permission to access iTunes Connect.




ARGHHHHHH!!!!! I know that's the account I used to sign up! 1Password says so too.  So I pull a diagnostic trick: run the iTunes Connect account application again. Sure enough:


The following error(s) occurred:
  • The iTunes Store account entered has already applied to distribute content on the iBookstore. To continue with this application, you must enter a different iTunes account.


OK, whatever. I have an application, no way to log in, no way to get appraised of its status, and no reasonable expectation that I'll ever hear from Apple on it since they never bothered to confirm the application. Silence is not a good way to communicate.

The process for apps is a game of ping-pong that takes several days between ball bounces, but at least they give feedback. A month is a little long to wait with nary a word either way. I've never seen a business process so craptastic from an organization renowned for products designed to be easy to use.

So, following a trick on Apple's user discussion forums, I give up on the free iBook publishing account option. It seems more like a honeypot meant to divert non-profit oriented people, than a legitimate application process.

I use an alternate account application to the paid iBook application.  Even the paid account application assumes that you've got several eBooks in the waiting, just ready to be published. I put in 0 for all the numbers, since I don't yet even have the tools that I need the account to download. We'll see how long it takes, if it is even accepted and doesn't turn into a black hole like the last application. It is March 6th as I write this.



Update: March 8th I had my paid iBook account approved. So the stats are in: 2 days to get a paid account vs 40+ days to get a free account. Lesson learned: use a credit card, and vendors will pay attention.









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