Updated: Apple No Longer Wants you to Mention That Other eBookstore (Maybe)
Apple has a long history of quirky behavior towards ebooks, including rejecting ebook apps simply because they’re apps, rejecting ebooks because of external links, and even letting an ebook sit in limbo while Apple’s censors dawdle their way through a content review.
While some of these examples might be reasonable, they all had at least a passing resemblance to a sensible rule. Today Apple has come up with a new reason an ebook, and it’s a doozy.
According to Holly Lisle, Apple is now rejecting ebooks simply because they mention – but don’t link to – Amazon. (And while we only have her word on the issue and no other evidence, she does have a backlog of posts on this and related issues.)
This whole thing started a couple months ago when Holly got a request to release her series of lessons on writing via the iBookstore. She started uploading the ebooks and things were going well until she hit book number 6:
I received an email from Apple’s iBookstore that How To Think Sideways—Lesson 6: How to Discover (or Create) Your Story’s Market has been pulled for containing links to a “Competing Website” and that in order to have the lesson put back on sale, I’ll have to remove the offending links.
Now, that’s not a new rule from Apple; they’ve rejected ebooks for just that reason before. But in this case, the links to Amazon aren’t used to sell more ebooks; they’re part of the lesson plan:
The problem with this, however, is that the links, which are to Amazon.com, are part of the content of the lesson, in which I demonstrate a technique for doing market research into other genres which might be reasonable places to attempt to sell your book along with your planned market (because in some cases your planned market won’t pan out, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other places that would buy what you’ve written).
To make a long story short, Holly decided to give in to Apple’s demand, and she removed the links. She replaced them with an explanation as to why they were gone along with a link to her website (which then lead to Amazon).
Unfortunately, that wasn’t good enough for Apple’s censors. Holly’s ebooks were rejected _again_, and this time the only thing wrong with the ebooks is that they mentioned Amazon.
And that’s not exactly something she can change, given that this series covers self-publshing a novel, and that means she won’t be able to publish any part of that series via iBooks. In fact, she’s already pulled the rest of the series from iBooks and announced plans to avoid Apple in the future.
That’s not all that big of a deal for Holly or her readers; she also sells her ebooks herself DRM-free in multiple formats. But I do think this will eventually grow to be a serious problem for iBooks.
Apple is capricious and a control freak, we know that. For the most part it doesn’t matter because they get to live in their own little walled garden (both hardware and software). But when it comes to ebooks, Apple hasn’t figured out yet that iBooks doesn’t exist in a walled garden similar to iOS apps. Nor does iBooks have the same dominant market position as iTunes.
So long as Apple continues to enforces ridiculous rules, I don’t see that ever happening – not even among Apple fanbois. They’ll follow the content, and if that means going to a different app they will.
Update: This story made it on to Slashdot, where one reader pointed out a hole in this story. It seems Apple already sells ebooks which mention Amazon (examples here, here, here). Whoops. That does tend to disprove this story, but on the other hand Apple is capricious. For all we know this author might have been the first to encounter Apple’s new rule (or simply a rule twistd by one of the censors).
Also, there is a report from a reliable source that ebooks are bounced from iBooks because they mentioned Amazon, so this story is not completely impossible.
image by dno1967b
Mike Cane July 29, 2012 um 12:34 pm
A Big Six publisher had a book rejected by Apple just for mentioning there was also a Kindle Edition available.
MyName July 29, 2012 um 11:03 pm
It sounds like what happens with many companies that grow an area too quickly and start hiring people who aren’t willing to think for themselves and just blindly apply whatever stupid rules middle management put in place.
Hopefully someone will get a clue in that area before they start really shooting themselves in the foot.
fjtorres July 30, 2012 um 7:10 am
Apple gatekeeps the iBookstore much like a traditional publisher: willy-nilly. No clear, consistent standards apply; just the whim of a nameless drone that in case of doubt covers their rear and says "no". Amazon also gatekeeps but their guidelines are freely available and, by all appearances, their nameless drones default to "yes" in case of doubt. Which brings a different set of gripes.:)
In the end the issue is consistency; much as in baseball umpiring…
The worst umpires aren’t the ones with a wide strike zone or a narrow one–pitchers and hitters can adjust to either–it is the ones with moving zones where a pitch can be a strike one moment and a ball another.
It is somewhat ironic that a book about getting away from the publishing gatekeepers should be blocked by a retailer’s gatekeepers. Ironic and a valid reason for her to move on.
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