Will Apple App Store Ban Racy Books Too?

There is a furor today over the App Store's recent policy of kicking out "sexy" apps (NSFW link), save for those from big companies like Playboy and SportsIllustrated.

Giving big companies the ability to show skin while cutting out small developers seems a little hypocritical, but it also gives Apple some problems next month when the iPad and its iBookstore is released.

While the App Store is Rated-G for the most part, Apple's iTunes Music Store offers music from your favorite Neo-Nazi band or movies that go to the outer reaches of "Rated R". (Which is fine btw, that's why there are parental controls and explicit lyrics warnings)

So how will Apple deal with its iBookstore? Will it treat the store like media, which is anything goes for the most part, or Apps, which Apple has whittled down to anything you'd feel comfortable playing in church.

The problem for Apple is that you must download the iBookstore from the App Store, which makes it a subset of the App Store. Technically, the same rules should apply.

One of the reasons put forth for Apple's recent App Store purging is that they are cleaning it up for the iPad and its role in schools - which will deal textbooks from the iBookstore. If this is the case, the iBookStore is going to be pretty Puritan.

Will books like the Kama Sutra, Lolita or even the Bible be permitted?

What about the extremely popular romance novel genre?   Where to draw the line? Will there be cries of censorship?

Pundits have said that Apple should open a second App Store where they just check to make sure apps won't hurt the iPhone or its OS and they are not resposible for any of the content. Apple has, in a way, offered up something like this. Safari.app.

In reality, there is no reason why these apps can't exist in the current app store under the 17 and older area.

But the App Store is Apple's prized possession at the moment. Keeping it wholesome is part and parcel with keeping its brand squeaky clean.

So Apple has backed itself into a hole corner here. Clearly, their original App Store cleansing intention was to keep apps that were borderline pornographic and subjectively deemed "in bad taste" out of the App Store. However, they now have a difficult-to-enforce -- or even understand -- policy on skin apps that they'll have a hard time translating to other parts of the iTunes experience.

This story, "Will Apple App Store Ban Racy Books Too?" was originally published by Computerworld.

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