Apple now rejecting ebook apps simply becuase they’re ebook apps

You know that ebook apps have been in itunes ever since the app store launched, right? Well, that might not last much longer. Apple is pushing ebook app developers to instead submit an ebook to iBooks instead of submitting an app to iTunes.

I’ve come across a number of reports today from developers who had one or more apps bounced by Apple. It’s been happening for at least the past 7 months (I’ve heard from one dev who fought with Apple in November-December). I won’t be naming that dev; it was a private email. But I saw screenshots from that developer’s app and trust me, it would not work well in iBooks.

There’s more. A friend on Twitter tipped me to this 4 month old post on a public forum, and the story is much the same. The ebook app had text, background music, and sound effects, but that wasn’t enough for Apple. Also, a second dev chimed in about a month later on that thread; he had the same experience.

I also have a 4th case, and this one from the Baker Framework community. (BF is a pre-written library of code that helps you build ebook apps for the iPad.) One dev reported that his app was rejected because it wasn’t app enough. Apple told him to submit it to iBooks, even though it’s not clear that you could translate the design of his app into Epub.

On the other hand, the devs who maintain the Baker Framework have heard back from a bunch of developers who succeeded in getting their app into iTunes, which suggests that the rejected apps might be a minority. It looks like approval depends on who reviews the app.

So here’s the problem, folks. Most of these apps have complex formatting that doesn’t work well in iBooks. That’s why they were submitted as apps.

Even if they do work, I wouldn’t want to have them as ebooks. iBooks forces you to experience a number of faux-book effects that I really don’t like.  It inserts a fake crease down the middle of the screen and as for the fake page turn – ugh!

P.S. Apple does have a rule for this, but it’s not being applied consistently.

* 2.21: Apps that are simply a song or movie should be submitted to the iTunes store. Apps that are simply a book should be submitted to the iBookstore”

What is a book?

P.P.S. If you have heard of other ebook apps being rejected, please let me know.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. elmar8 June, 2011

    As much as I have wanted to purchase an Ipad2, things like this keep me from doing so. Just way too much control in their hands if you want into their world.

  2. Tilmon Hocutt8 June, 2011

    Apple is doing an excellent job of strangling their own creation.

  3. Morgan9 June, 2011

    Yikes! This is highly disappointing. We shouldn’t be restricted in how we want to read our eBook’s or listen to our audiobooks. I hope it’s just some sort of glitch on their part.

  4. Brendan Gannon15 June, 2011

    Yes, this is a widely enforced rule these days. Before iBooks, if you wanted a multimedia book you had to build an app, and those apps are still in the App Store (which is confusing and potentially misleading to new developers). iBooks supports fixed-layout books (eg. picture books) now in addition to audio and video, so apps that don’t push the boundaries beyond this will be told they should be developed as enhanced ebooks instead (which is largely a separate skill set from app development).

    It’s frustrating to developers, but it makes sense within Apple’s ecosystem. They want to make sure people know where to find different types of content and what to expect from them. The ebook rejections seem to fall under their general rule that apps shouldn’t duplicate the functionality of existing Apple software (in this case, iBooks).

    Apple does what they do well, but they keep strict control of their platform. When you’re developing for them you really need to do your homework.

  5. […] course, when you submit an app to iTunes there’s always the chance that Apple might decide you belong in iBooks. That alone might be a good reason to go for a more sophisticated […]

  6. rachel5 August, 2011

    Yes mine has been rejected even though it is a holiday booking app.

  7. Bob28 August, 2011

    Mine was a comic book app ! How do you Want to read comics on iBookstore ????

  8. […] author had included links to Amazon. That is a relatively minor case compared to the one I found last year. Apple was pushing developers to release their apps as Epub, not apps, even though some […]


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