Apple Rejects A Thomas Jefferson App From The App Store

Brad Pasanek and John O’Brien are professors at the University of Virginia whose digital rendering of Notes On The State Of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson’s only full-length book, was denied entry to the App Store. They wrote about it over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the description of Pasanek and O’Brien’s app makes it seem like it would have packed a punch for history buffs. They write:

“We imagined the tablet environment as a uniquely powerful surrogate for readers interested in Jefferson’s second-, third-, and nth thoughts, who could study marginalia and at the same time access — with the swipe of a finger — a modern annotated reading text that would put the work in its context. We got a small amount of funding, the (enthusiastic) permission of the University Library to use high-resolution images of their treasures, the assistance of a splendidly capable graduate student in our department, and a local developer, Performant Software Solutions, who understands the humanities and immediately grasped what we hoped to accomplish. We edited and annotated the text, and transcribed all of Jefferson’s annotations; meanwhile Performant came up with a clever interface that allowed the user to scroll rapidly though collated page images and to swipe between the various states of the text.”

Upon submission to the App Store, Apple rejected it, basically saying that they’ve created an iBook, specifically not an app. But Pasanek and O’Brien point to apps similar to their own in current good standing with the App Store, such as this take on TS Eliot’s The Waste Land.

It’s an unfortunate reminder: Apple can do whatever it wants when it comes to approving and rejecting apps for inclusion in its App Store. In this case, they theorize that “Apple has decided to define ‘book’ narrowly in order to populate the iBookstore with as much unique content as possible as a way of competing against Amazon and Google.”

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