Apple's legendary arbitrariness
in keeping things out of its walled garden has struck again. As a bunch of folks have sent over, some professors at the University of Virginia have put together what sounds like a wonderful app for the iPad, which takes different early versions of Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia
(the only full-length book he ever wrote) and allows users to compare the different versions, and to get a glimpse into Jefferson's writing process and how his thoughts changed over time. It sounds both fascinating and like a really excellent use of tablet app technology -- to do something that really would have been much more difficult to do in physical form. Except... Apple has rejected the app over and over again
, claiming that it is merely "a book" not an "app" and thus needs to be formatted as an iBook, with all of the restrictions that entails. Unfortunately, those restrictions also mean that as an "iBook" it won't do what the app is supposed to do.
But when we submitted the app to Apple for approval, it was turned down. Why? The reason the App Review Team gave (again and again) was that our app was “simply” or “just a book” (their words), and that it therefore had to be formatted in Apple’s iBooks Author program in order to be distributed through the iBookstore. We decided to play along and make a good-faith effort to convert our app into an iBook, only it doesn’t work. We cannot reproduce all of the features of our app–including some of the ones that we think the app needs to be useful to anyone–and for reasons no one has been able to explain, the iBooks Author file seems to expand well beyond the maximum size for an iBook (currently 2 GB). We’re stuck with an app that does just about everything we envisioned, that has impressed the many people to whom we have shown it on our own iPads, that does something that no app or printed book out there does–but that Apple won’t allow to be listed in its App Store. So, yes, it is possible to download an app called “Burp and Fart Piano” that does pretty much what you’d expect such an app to do, but a free, edited edition of Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia that lets you compare Jefferson’s and Lafayette’s own copies and to zoom in on Jefferson’s handwritten corrections? No dice.
As they note, this is absolutely Apple's prerogative, just as it's their prerogative to point out how ridiculous this whole thing is. In the meantime, they've found another solution:
In the meantime, we’re looking for a programmer who can help us port our app to Android.