The inevitable has finally happened. Apple now has a mechanism to self-publish through them without the need for even a middleman like Lulu, much less an agent or a book deal with a real publishing house.
Up until the advent of the iPad, perhaps there wasn't as much of a need. Although some do read on their iPhones, for example.
But Apple clearly has designs on the eBook market and isn't ignoring any beachhead in that space, including self-publishing authors.
For the entrepreneur, this is potentially a great opportunity to put yourself out there as an expert/industry leader in your field.
Here's what you need to know to get going:
1. Step one: write a book.
2. Step two: convert it to an ePub format. Here's a how-to from LexCycle. You will also need a Mac with an Intel processor and OS X version 10.5 or higher to actually do the encoding.
3. Step three: An ISBN number (Here's the FAQ on how to go about it from isbn.org). It takes about two weeks to turn around an application for a number.
4. Step four: Get a valid U.S. tax identification number.
5. Step five: Make sure you have an iTunes store account.
Naturally, Apple will be wetting it's beak off your sales (after all, you are selling in their house). However, there's no word on how that works. You are allowed to set your own prices and vary those prices for various countries.