Monday, July 30, 2012

Apple accuses author of naming the eRetailer that she dare not name

Apple's never had much love for that pesky First Amendment, and The Digital Reader reports that the company has now banned an eBook from its iBookstore simply because it mentions Amazon. Here's a summary:

Author Holly Lisle was asked to release her series of eBook lessons on writing in Apple's iBookstore, which she did. Everything went swimmingly until she reached Lesson 6, which teaches authors how to do research in order to identify other genres in which to sell their books. As part of the lesson, she included an example with links to Amazon's website. Apple rejected the eBook on the basis of the links to Amazon (something that Apple's done in the past,) and Lisle edited the eBook and replaced the links to Amazon with links to her own site. Then, she resubmitted the eBook, and Apple rejected it again, this time because it simply mentioned Amazon. (To be completely accurate, Apple rejected the resubmitted version because it claims that Lisle didn't remove the links to Amazon, even though she actually did remove them and has uploaded the new version of the eBook without the links multiple times.)

It's not unusual for eBookstores to delete, or fail to approve, eBooks due to plagiarism or because they reproduce public domain content that's already available in the bookstore in multiple forms. However, Apple appears to be only eRetailer that refuses to carry eBooks that even mention competitors. Lisle claims that Apple's actions aren't censorship because Apple isn't a government entity, but it's a distinction without a real difference. If, instead of having 10% market share, Apple had 90% market share and engaged in this behavior, it would be de facto censorship.

Update, August 2, 2012: Apple has apologized to Holly Lisle and has reinstated her Lesson 6, including the links to Amazon. However, the decision to allow Lisle to sell her eBook should be seen more as a response to negative PR than as any change in Apple's policy of banning eBooks with links to competitors.
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