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Apple’s ebook store bans books that use Apple trademarks in unapproved (but legal and accurate) ways
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Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz’s must-read new book The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy (read an excerpt) is not for sale in the Apple ebook store, and won’t be until they agree to change their text to refer to Apple’s ebooks as “iBooks” rather than “iBook.”
The petty editorial dictate is a little-known aspect of the agreement that publishers must sign onto in order to put their products in Apple’s bookstore, which demands that Apple trademarks be used as “adjectives, not nouns.” But even this injunction doesn’t actually cover the sin that Perzanowski and Schultz committed in their book.
Rather, Apple is objecting to the authors’ use of iBook (the name of a discontinued line of Apple laptops) to refer to the ebooks sold in Apple’s store, which they do three times in the text — Apple wants these items referred to as “ebooks from the iBooks store.”
Perzanowski and Schultz have prepared a special edition exclusively for Apple’s sale that replaces these three lines, for example,” Apple’s iBooks can only be read on Apple devices” has been changed to “Ebooks acquired through Apple’s iBooks Store can only be read on Apple devices.” They hope that Apple’s censors will approve the new edition.
But we didn’t use “iBook” as a generic term; we used it to refer specifically and exclusively to ebooks sold by Apple. So the argument is misplaced. Elsewhere, Apple repeats the common trademark mantra that a mark is an adjective, not a noun. But even casual perusal of Apple’s website and marketing materials reveals widespread use of terms like “MacBook,” “iPhone,” and “iTunes” as nouns.
But there’s another, more amusing, explanation for Apple’s nitpicking about the use of this particular term. In 1999, long before it was seriously considering becoming a digital book retailer, Apple launched a consumer laptop meant to capitalize on the success of the iMac. At the time, it’s professional laptops were called PowerBooks, so the new device was dubbed the iBook. Apple discontinued the product in 2006. But its legacy lives on. Ebooks sold on the iBooks Store are quizzically not called iBooks—because that name was already taken by Apple itself.
WHY YOU CAN’T BUY OUR BOOK FROM APPLE [Aaron Perzanowski/The End of Ownership]
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