Apple rejects e-book reader over access to Kama Sutra

Thu, May 21, 2009

Analysis, News

Apple’s seemingly inconsistent app store polices seem to create a public outcry nearly every week, so you would think that by now, Apple would have learned a thing or two.

In the latest edition of non-sensical app store rejections, Apple rejected the e-book reader Eucalyptus on the grounds that users can use it to access the Kama Sutra.  Keep in mind that the app itself contains no content, and is merely used as a medium to read content downloaded from, a free archive of digitized classic books whose stated  purpose is to “encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.”

As James Montgomerie, the developer behind Eucalyptus, points out, his program “doesn’t ‘contain’ books any more than a newly bought iPod ‘contains’ songs.”

That said, the only way to find the “objectionable” text is to manually search for it, and that’s exactly what an app reviewer at Apple did.  The app was initially submitted to Apple on April 27th, only to be followed by a rejection letter nearly 2 weeks later.

Thank you for submitting Eucalyptus — classic books, to go. to the App Store. We’ve reviewed Eucalyptus — classic books, to go. and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains inappropriate sexual content..

The email was also accompanied with the screenshot shown above.

What’s crazy is that the content that Apple finds so objectionable can easily be downloaded and viewed via other e-book readers that are currently available on iTunes, such as Stanza and Amazon’s Kindle App, not to mention via the web on Apple’s own Safari application.

In a subsequent email exchange, Montgomerie tries to explain to Apple how the app itself doesn’t contain any objectionable content.

The screenshot in question was taken after manually searching specifically for the phrase in the screenshot. The ‘content’ is not not ‘included’ in the application, or specifically controlled by me. The same content could be found by searching at with Safari, or by searching with the Google application, also available on the store.

Apple, however, doesn’t seem to get the point, and instead replies with screenshots of actual text from the Kama Sutra (hot!) and suggests to the developer that,

It would be appropriate to remove this particular section in your application due to: “Applications must notcontain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.)…

As noted by Montgomerie, his app doesn’t contain any content, and it’s therefore hard to figure out what Apple exactly means when it writes that he should remove a “particular section” from the app.  Below, check out a screenshot containing an example of the Kama Sutra text that Apple finds objectionable.

As a sidenote, what man is able to satisfy an elephant woman?

I somehow doubt that teenage boys have any interest in donning a pair of reading glasses so that they can fully digest the sexual content pictured above.  And besides, the versions of the Kama Sutra available on other e-readers come with full-fledged illustrations, yet those are perfectly okay.

Also, didn’t we experience this exact same story a few weeks ago with Trent Reznor and his temporarily rejected NIN app?  If you recall, Apple rejected an update to the NIN iPhone app because it allowed users to stream a song that contained “objectionable content”, even though that same song was easily available as a download on iTunes.  In the end, the ability to stream the “offensive” song was removed, and the NIN app was subsequently allowed back into the app store.


In any event, Montgomerie understandably doesn’t have the time to sit around and exchange emails back and forth with Apple – especially considering the fact that they’re not exactly prompt with their replies.

So in an email to Apple today, Montgomerie conceded to Apple’s demand:

Even though it has meant creating a specific filter on search results, I have now submitted a new version that specifically blocks access to the Kama Sutra book you identified. Is this what you mean?

Hopefully this will all get resolved soon, and Eucalyptus will soon find its way onto iTunes.  But it’s becoming apparent that Apple needs to be more transparent when it comes to its acceptance/rejection policies.  How many more of these stories are needed before Apple realizes that something needs to be done?

The iTunes App Store isn’t that new anymore, and it’s about time that we start seeing some consistency from Apple.  If they wants to ban all semblance of illicit content from the app store, then that’s their call.  But rejecting an e-book reader while welcoming with open arms apps that contain far more questionable content is just bad for business, leaves developers confused, and can only end up hurting Apple in the long run.  If Apple needs to hire a few more competent people to keep an eye on the review process, then that’s what they should do.  It’s not like they can’t afford it.


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2 Comments For This Post

  1. James Stratford Says:

    It’s disturbing that a company like Apple would be overbearing. It can’t even be called self promoting since it’ll cause business to go down from less buying customers.

    I appreciate Apple checking the contents of things, but when it’s a reader of any sort and it’s empty it’s lame to deny it’s sale. There are to possibilities that come to mind:

    1. Apple has a competing product in process that hasn’t been presented and it’s sensorship to protect the sales and positioning of the new product and the brand.

    2. Apple has a policy/supervision issue. If policy then the board of directors needs to address it and the stockholders need to know the outcome. If it’s a supervision issue it’s still most likely an ill defined policy that is the real culprit.

    It’s yet another corporate issue of a large company that I’ll follow and if there isn’t resolution it’s time for grass roots efforts to affect corporate arrogance due to the lack of resolution.

    @JRStratford on Twitter

  2. Neil Anderson Says:

    Sounds pretty Puritan.

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