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Thursday Midday Links: I Worry About Apple’s Propensity for Censorship, Do...

One of the most attractive things about the iPhone/iTouch and soon to be iPad is the robust App community that offers everything from the ridiculous (fart apps) to the sublime (Stanza). But Apple rules the App store like Tomas de Torquemada (Inquisitor-General of the Spanish Inquisition). It’s a reign of terror and uncertainty for app developers. This isn’t hyperbole.

It costs, at a minimum, about $10,000 to get a mildly functional app developed. Whether your App is approved is totally up to an unknown cadre of app approvers. Further, content based rejections are common even if the content isn’t built in such as when Eucalyptus was rejected because the Kama Sutra could be downloaded using the book app.

This is the basis for app rejection:

"Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple's reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users."

The fact is that Apple has and will ban content in ways far worse than the episode of #amazonfail. Despite Apple’s concern about the end user and its current quest to seek out and destroy sexually explicit content based apps, Playboy is still a pay option.

For now, though, it appears Apple is ready to let the dirty into their bookstore. Forbes says that there is an “Erotica” category under general fiction and for romance in the iBookstore. These categories may change, however, before launch:

These categories may shift again before the iPad hits stores April 3. Since announcing the device in late January, Apple has changed its classification system several times, says Kastelein. In late February the company listed about 35 top-level e-book categories. It later whittled them down to the current 20.

If you don’t want to contribute to Apple’s desire to control all your media content but you love the tablet idea, be with cheer. Several other companies like HP, Toshiba, and Asus are going to have slate tablets at the end of the year. Here’s a video of the HP one which looks just as lust worthy as the iPhone one. Even better, if it plays iTunes, you can have a lot of the functionality of movies and music, without giving into the Jobsian world rule.

The HP Slate interests me because I am a addict and hulu is flashbased. The iPad won’t run flash but the Slate would.


At Slashdot, a commenter brought up the fact that Amazon’s 1 click patent has been reexamined and will not expire until September 2017. The one click patent has prevented online retailers from providing one click buys with shopping cart model unless a licensing fee is paid to Amazon. Apple is one company that licenses the one click application.

Hachette has had a good year despite Meyer sales slipping out the stratosphere to hover somewhere just below it and well above mere mortals. (Like she is no longer Zeus, just a slightly lesser god). In fact, when Hachette did suffer a decline in sales it was directly attributable to drop offs of Meyer book sales. Meyer doesn’t have anything in the publication shoot and it’s questionable how many tweens and moms haven’t already purchased this book. eBook sales comprised 3% of over all sales and $5 million in December.

For those playing publisher Bingo at home, 2009 was a good year for Harlequin, Penguin, Hachette, and not so bad for HarperCollins. Still to be heard from are Simon & Schuster and Random House.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Sheryl Nantus
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 11:39:03

    I do like the HP slate idea, but… what’s it going to take to get a good ebook reader that’s not going to cost more than a netbook?


    re: Apple’s censorship – I remember a program on CNBC a few months ago that detailed the work that went into producing an app and getting it approved. Needless to say the oddest ones were approved and the most useful ones were not…

    it’ll be interesting to see what they permit and what they *don’t* allow under the “erotica” label!

  2. Jessie
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 11:41:15

    Wow. The Kama Sutra is a religious text. That’s pretty awful.

  3. Mike Cane
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 11:41:43

    Where was everyone two years ago when I blew the whistle when Apple rejected a comic book for content? And then a book because it used “fuck”?

    Anyway, here’s the solution: BUY NOTHING from the iBookstore. NOTHING. Buy from Sony, buy from Fictionwise, buy from any store that uses Adobe DRM. Then strip the damned DRM so the book can be transfered and read on the iPad.

  4. Kalen Hughes
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 11:51:55

    what's it going to take to get a good ebook reader that's not going to cost more than a netbook?

    I guess it depends on what you want in an eReader. I just got a new CyBook Opus for $195 and it rocks my world.

  5. Ridley
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 12:00:01

    I really don’t get Apple’s gadgets’ appeal. Proprietary peripherals, no flash, arbitrary app approvals, expensive hardware and requires AT&T. /pass

    I guess it shows people really don’t think too hard before they buy. They see a cute design, and run with it, putting up with whatever is wrong with it without much of a thought. It’s form over function for most people.

    The HP Slate looks interesting, but I guess tablets just don’t appeal to me. I’m happy at my computer for media and internet – I mean, I’m usually playing WoW if I’m not reading – and don’t really want a multi-tasking gadget for reading. Book time is book time.

    No doubt I’m in a tiny minority. Judging by trade chat, I don’t think too many of my fellow Azerothians take to reading.

  6. Mireya
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 12:35:09

    I’d like to get a pad/slate type of reading gadget in the future … but I will wait until there are more options available. Right now, the iPad is overprized and overhyped. Now you mention censorship … aaallllrightyyy. Next gizmo please!

  7. RStewie
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 12:42:13

    This is only a minor reason I won’t buy Apple products. The main one is that they are just TOO proprietary. Nothing works with them without finangling and work-arounds and software maneuverings. I don’t have time for that.

    I’m excited to see what HP comes up with on the Slate but I’m waiting until the Courier comes out to buy anything.

  8. Joanne
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 14:08:52

    Doesn’t it make you laugh when you see
    “reasonable judgement” when you don’t know whose reasonable judgement they’re talking about? It’s also really funny for a business to take that parental attitude when, at the same time, they are offering “fart” applications.

    It also makes me wonder what ‘they’ consider erotic. Will it make me blush and wave my fan in front of my face? Will I need my violet water and smelling salts?
    I just want to say to Steve Jobs: thanks daddy.

    @Mike Cane: No need to tell people what they should buy and what they should avoid, we’re grownups here.
    But, thanks daddy.

  9. HeatherK
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 14:54:18

    There are all types of “questionable” material in the app store by Apple’s standards so it does make you wonder what method they use for determining this and who is the one deciding. For instance, there’s a stripper name generator and all sorts of apps with naked or nearly naked women. I’ve gotten a R-17 or something like that window popped up on several apps I downloaded to check out, including on some of the book apps. I really don’t see any consistency in what they say no to and what they let through.

    Having said that, I’m an Apple girl all the way, having been burned by Windows one too many times. I love the stability of the Apple programing, though the compatibility issue could use some work. Gaming companies, hear that? I want your games but they won’t run on my Mac. Please fix this because you are losing my money by being Windows exclusive. I adore my iPod Touch and love my Mac laptop. I just wish they weren’t so expensive.

    I’m looking forward to the iPad and as soon as it’s out and I have the spare cash, my husband and I have agreed that I can get one. However, I have found the backlight hurts my eyes when I try to read on it for too long. Think I’ll stick with my Sony for reading, but the iPod Touch still has several handy functions.

    I don’t make new tech decisions lightly after I got burned with an impulse buy several years ago. I spend months researching the item I’m looking into, going over tech specs with a fine tooth comb and reading user reviews. Granted, there are no user reviews for the iPad yet, but there will be before I manage to come up with the cash for one.

    When I got to the point I was afraid to write anything on a Windows PC because it kept screwing up and losing my work, I switched to Mac out of desperation because everyone who had one went on and on about how stable they were. I’ve not been disappointed yet. I’ve had my Mac over two years now and haven’t had a single problem with it. I didn’t have my last PC laptop a month before Windows had to be wiped and reinstalled.

    So yes, there are problems, but it’s all about which problems can be lived with and which ones can’t. I won’t go back to a Windows based system, be it a computer or a handheld device. Been there, done that and have the emotional scars to prove it.

  10. Beth
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 17:49:58

    @Mike Cane:

    I found that story from you and told Jonathan Zittrain. Believe me, some of us knew about this a while back. I’ve told any and all Apple fans I’ve come across about it and then some.

  11. iPad Links: Thursday, March 11, 2010 « Mike Cane's iPad Test
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 18:45:41

    […] I Worry About Apple's Propensity for Censorship, Do You? Where are my effing e-books? […]

  12. Zola Henry
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 18:48:05

    I own an apple laptop, and generally like their products because they work out of the box, most of the time. I, however, wouldn’t touch the ipad if I got it free. So many products are coming out this year that, in my opinion, will give the consumer a fine choice among tablets/e-readers. Apple’s glitter is useful for proving that there is a viable market for these types of devices.

    I’m waiting to see what NotionInk manages to pull off with their Adam tablet Which, if they manage to deliver on all their specs, and at a reasonable price, will be quite the coup.

    And Qualcomm’s mirasol ereader looks like it would be amazing, and worth the money you’d save on battery life alone.

  13. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 19:32:55

    I’m happy with the gadgets I’ve got and if I get another, it’ll be a smartphone.

    HOWEVER, I’m lusting after the MS Courier, especially for ebook reading, as the MS Reader is just a gorgeous interface for reading. Easy on the eyes, backlit, blah blah blah.

    It’s also foldable into a smaller package, like a journal, AND it seems to do more of what I’d rather have, which is a place to stash my brain and ideas–then carry it in my (albeit oversized) pocket.

  14. eggs
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 21:35:57

    I swing the other way with the Apple censorship issue in that I don’t think it’s a problem at all – as long as they are up front about the markets they don’t cater to. A lot of people like the idea of having a prudish device that they can use anywhere without worrying what the boss or family will find on it. You can always have a second, sluttier device that has all your fun stuff on it. I think the days when people had only one computer or phone in the house are long gone.

  15. Teddypig
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 00:18:10

    I really have no problem with most of what Apple is taking out of the app pile.

    And I seriously question your whole $10,000 app price though. Replicating HTML pages or reproducing RSS feeds or using old java script tricks does not take much programming skills.

    Anyway, the real programming of useful apps as with Stanza or Fictionwise has not been touched and those are the main apps I want on my iPad.

    I am more than happy to think that if you really want some app that shows naked whatever on your iPhone then hack away and jailbreak the damn thing and have at it.

    There’s a whole market going on with the jailbreak crowd. Apple Jailbreaking just proves that unlike the limited appeal or use of Kindle or Sony if lots of people really want something on their device they will hack it.

  16. Liam Campbell
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 01:16:23


    I am an author and an iPhone developer.

    It is going to be interesting to see how Apple deals with the flood of AppBooks coming to the iPad. I’ve seen 27,000 as a current estimate of iPhone AppBooks on the store now.

    It’s frustrating as a developer to have so little information about the iBookstore while feeling uncertain about the viability of AppBooks on the app store in the future. Publishers are seeking advice, but like them, I am trying to predict the future and put the pieces together.

    Perhaps AppBooks will be for those willing to download up to 1GB of data in an app to get all the extra goodies like video, games, photo galleries… and the iBookstore will be for people who just want to read a book on their iPad.

    Perhaps the iBookstore will allow publishers/developers to offer two versions? A standard version (smaller download) and an ‘enhanced’ version. It will be interesting if some of these will be offered at different price points.

    Personally, when I want to read a book, I don’t want to watch a video. I’d appreciate a link to a website. I could go there and watch videos if I wanted to.

    I guess it’s wait and see.


    p.s. I agree with Teddypig about the $10k comment. But maybe you were specifically referring to developing a generic ebook reader app from the ground up.

  17. Tae
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 01:20:42

    for once I’m rooting for a company that is not Apple, it ironic really that Apple had that commercial back in the 1980’s about how they were smashing the 1984 “big brother” market, and here they’ve become “big brother” themselves.

    Ipad is not worth having without flash,and especially a usb slot. I have an Apple laptop, I have an ASUS netbook, I have a Sony PRS, I’ll probably get an itouch as well soon enough, and I would like to get a tablet too, but not with what’s currently available

  18. Jane
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 07:03:20

    @Liam Campbell Thanks Liam. I heard at my last conference that currently Apple isn’t interested in partnering with a number of small publishers for content in the iBookstore. They tier the publishers according to the sales demand, I believe, and I am unsure at this point how a self published or small press author gets into the iBookstore.

    Hopefully I am wrong about that.

    As for the developing fee, I base that on my own personal investigations having debated about developing an iPhone App myself. There are places that offer RSS based apps that are on the low end (under $1000) but these are currently being rejected by Apple for failing to have functionality. I spoke with several reputable app developers and it was going to cost in excess of $10K to have one done. When I was surprised by the price, I asked around to others and was assured that yes, that was a pretty fair price.

  19. Liam Campbell
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 09:12:54

    @Jane: Thanks for the reply Jane.

    I just made a blog post related to this you might be interested in:

    As for the developing fee… I think sometimes you just need to get creative. There are so many different ways to make iPhone apps these days. It’s hard to comment further without knowing the type of app you wanted to produce. But, say your app could run on a website… it’s very easy to port an app from html pages. The added bonus is that you also get a web app if you do it this way. This is an economical and relatively straightforward way to make iPhone apps.

    re: getting into the iBookstore as a self-published author or small publisher – we will have to wait and see. I’ve applied to the program but haven’t had any further correspondence. But it makes sense for Apple to establish partnerships with the bigger publishers first. Just the way business works.

    In the meantime, I think the best way for authors who can’t access the iBookstore to get their work onto the iPad is to make an AppBook. As I mention in the post, while there is a degree of risk in doing this (ie. Apple might remove them in the future to protect the integrity of the iBookstore), I think it is minimal.

    I think authors (like publishers) have to be more creative about the ways they get their material out there now. It’s an exciting time though and I look forward to seeing the different ways writers do this.

    My two cents :-)

  20. Sandia
    Mar 12, 2010 @ 12:30:29

    I’m thinking the HP slate…. the ability to have flash on it is big for me. I wonder what the price point will be… I’m assuming less than the iPad…

  21. stevie
    Mar 13, 2010 @ 17:26:51

    ‘This isn't hyperbole’

    Really? You can’t tell the difference between having an App turned down and being tortured and burned alive?

    I can see that you would have real problems trying to convince people on that one…

  22. Stumbling Over Chaos :: Absolinkity
    Mar 18, 2010 @ 02:03:36

    […] Like Dear Author, I do worry about Apple’s propensity toward censorship… […]

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