When it comes to electronic publishing, the waters of ebook creation are murky and deep, full of confusing exceptions, varied formats, and non-existent support. Even Apples clean, simplistic style is largely absent from its iBookstore publishing program: The companys tools are primitive and, in the case of iWork application Pages, far out of date. But despite these problems, publishers may now at the least be able to seek solutions from Apple itself, thanks to a new telephone support option from the company.

Originally, iBookstore publishers could only query the iBookstore staff about problems via a contact formone with an incredibly slow response time, at thator by attending Apples Worldwide Developers Conference and speaking to an engineer. The new telephone support line, which is available for publishers Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific, is a major improvement in ebook publisher relations, and a boon for learning ebook best practices, too.

If you have an iTunes Connect account and publish to the iBookstore, you can call the support line at any time for any issue the company already covers under email support. That includes publishing and tax problems, ePub and iBooks Author questions, sales information, and more. Calls are toll-free from the United States and Canada; international rates apply to calls made from outside of these countries.

As the Macworld representative for our iBookstore dealings, I find the new phone support option welcome news. Anything that puts publishers in better contact with our publishing platforms will result in better-made books with fewer errors, even if it means that iBookstore specialists may get burdened with the occasional how do I make a line break? question.

My own brief experience with the iBookstores phone support was outstanding: I was immediately connected to a rep, who was not only able to quickly supply me with an answer to an issue Ive been having with iTunes Connect for ages, but forwarded my issue on to the engineering team to see if it could get addressed. Whether it ever will get addressed remains to be seen, but the mere fact that I was able to so quickly get an answer as to why it wasnt working is fantastic.

As many ebook publishers know, its not like this on the other platforms. Amazons Kindle Direct Publishing only offers a web forma form which, in my experience, would be better named The Black Hole Complaint Box, as Ive rarely received anything but a form letter after filing an issue. Barnes and Nobles PubIt! program for the Nook at least offers an actual email address to its publishing partners with a group of humans on the other end, though its again hard not to feel like youre submitting a query into the abyss. For as much as we hate the wait times and the elevator music, phone support is a much more immediateand personalway to connect over a problem.

This is a great first step from Apple, and, with any luck, the other ebook platforms will follow suit. In the meantime, if youre a publisher with an obscure question about iTunes Connect, why not pick up the phone and try out Apples service for yourself?