Apple App Store approves 'Knife Music' novel after David Carnoy removes F word: Self-censorship in action

image Well, that solves the problem in David Carnoy's case, but not for other book-style apps. Just how would Apple have dealt with Henry Miller? The Apple App Store remains a textbook example of why proprietary tech should be decoupled as much as possible from literary content.

I'm glad that David will keep the F word in other versions of Knife Music, but I hope he'll reconsider his retreat from the fight with Apple. GalleyCat's headline beautifully captured the essence of what David did: CNet editor self-censors digital book for Apple App Store. And, no, David, we don't need your app to popularize the iPhone for e-reading. The ePub-capable Stanza and similar programs already exist, thank you.

And now a little irony. The Rev. Steve Jobs at Apple knows about sex---the beautiful Lisa is proof. Maybe he and his company should be more tolerant on matters of morality. If nothing else, why can't there be an area of the App Store or iTunes reserved for books like the original version of Knife Music? But wait. Do public libraries have special sections of books that simply have the F word in them---no other offense?

And speaking of another M word, "mortality": I'd love to know the true nature of Jobs' ailment. Could he be violating SEC rules if he didn't level sufficiently with shareholders? No accusations. I'm just curious, and actually there is an e-book angle in this. If Jobs gets too sick to monitor Apple, perhaps we'll finally see a book-fit tablet. Hey, Steve. People do read---even "dirty" books.

Close to home: I included city-room talk in The Solomon Scandals, officially published yesterday; and I'd love for Twilight Times Books to test my novel on the prudes at Apple.

Scandals is probably a much tamer book overall than David C’s, and the F Word shows up, in certain places, simply because it fits the main editor and certain other characters. No gratuitous obscenity! Hence it would be most interesting to see Apple—humans, software-based filters or a mix thereof—toss out Scandals on language grounds alone. Does any Apple app expert want to volunteer the conversion of Scandals into an app, so I can check out company’s censorship policies? Normally I dislike the presentation of novels as apps, but Apple is well worth a test. I lack the resources for a legal fight and am not sure of the law here anyway—Apple isn’t the government—but maybe if enough writers speak up, we can make App Store a little less Victorian.

Detail, in response to Moriah: When I mention gratuitous obscenity, I’m talking about avoiding it in my writings. This is a writer-by-writer decision.

About David Rothman (6820 Articles)
David Rothman is the founder and publisher of the TeleRead e-book site and cofounder of He is also author of The Solomon Scandals novel and six tech-related books on topics ranging from the Internet to laptops. Passionate on digital divide issues, he is now pushing for the creation of a national digital library endowment.

13 Comments on Apple App Store approves 'Knife Music' novel after David Carnoy removes F word: Self-censorship in action

  1. No gratuitous obscenity!

    What about non-gratuitous obscenity?

    I was given the option of white-washing my book so it would make the cut and I decided against it.

    It seems to me Apple is actively attempting to discourage book reading. The ScrollMotion deal (of YA books with funky and non-working DRM) notwithstanding, I just don’t know what other conclusion to draw.

  2. Moriah, I’m on your side. I’m merely talking about what I’ve written. Sorry about your own experiences with Apple. David

  3. David, it’s okay, really. Any light shed on it is good light, IMO and you’re doing a good job!

    I’m torn over the issue. I mean, it seems intuitive to me to want to capitalize on another revenue stream and so… Why isn’t this happening?

    In other news, now that SmashWords content is in the Stanza store, I can get that visibility with iPhone even if not in iApp form.

  4. Since, as far as I know, Apple doesn’t censor audio/video content in the iTunes Store, I believe this is one of those grey areas where the AppStore submission rules are being applied too broadly.

    The only way to get this changed is to fight it, not to give in. Make enough noise and Apple does listen.

  5. I’m curious why authors continue to want to offer their product as a standalon book/app and have to live with Apple’s “editorial discretion” when they could just sell the book via ereader or such????

    I guess they feel they will have better visibility if they can be seen in the App Store?? Assuming of cours Apple lets them in. :)

  6. HeavyG, it is a visibility issue, for sure. In my case, I want every avenue available to me to exploit.

    As for selling via eReader, do you mean the eReader store owned by Fictionwise?

  7. We are an iPhone book publisher and we have had a book turned down twice, not because it has the “F-bomb” in it, but simply because it talks about sex. Naughty, naughty! The book in question is called “Sex – Avoided Subjects Discussed in Plain English” by Henry Stanton. It is an old reference book published in 1922 and we though our readers would find it amusing to read about the prudish sexual attitudes that prevailed in the 1920’s. Little did we know that that the prudish attitudes that prevail in the Apple iTunes App Store would prevent this from happening. Our submission was summarily rejected with a citation of the “rules” that apply:

    “Applications must not contain any obscene, pornographic, offensive or defamatory content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, etc.), or other content or materials that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable by iPhone or iPod touch users.”

    This book is not even remotely pornographic or obscene. It was written as a serious reference book n the subject of sex. What is even more curious is that this ridiculously prudish attitude only exists in the App Store part of iTunes. A search of iTunes for titles with words like “F**k, C**T, PR**K, etc. all come up with hundreds of hits. F-bombs and worse are apparently OK at Apple if you sing them!! Go figure.

    What is even more distressing is that there is no recourse. There is no actual person who takes responsibility for the decision, it comes with ‘Regards” form the “iPhone Developer Program”. Emails attempting to provide enlightenment to the “Program” go unanswered. There is no recourse. I think back to the famous Apple Big Brother Superbowl ad. It is sad to think that Apple has now become Big Brother!

  8. For the record, my book is on Stanza in the “uncut” version. It’s on Smashwords and there’s a coupon code in the description for the book that makes it a free download for a limited time.

    But let me say this. Having your book as an iPhone App at this point is much better. It’s a one-click process to download for anybody who’s registered with iTunes (which is millions of people). It’s much more of a pain to have to go through Stanza and Smashwords. Try it if you have an iPhone or iPod Touch. You’ll see what I mean.

  9. Thanks for dropping by, David C.

    In the post, I noted you have uncensored versions. But I’m still very disappointed you gave up the fight with the Apple App Store (although I continue to wish you the best of luck with the book!).

    Having your book as an iPhone App at this point is much better.

    But of course! That’s why so many people dislike Apple’s censorship act: it does matter. Just the same, the current apps are getting into proprietary tech. Maybe the iPhone could come with an ePub-capable reader and let people install shortcuts that did work with the reader. At the same time the phone could allow installation of third-party readers.

    Now back to the censorship issue. Are you going to follow up on CNET? You already have examples from this blog—not just from me, but also from others. If Apple goes by language alone, then I suspect I’m SOL with The Solomon Scandals even though the F word is appropriate for the characters who use it.

    David R

  10. Fight with Apple? There’s no one to fight with. The whole AppStore approval process is rather mysterious (“they” don’t respond to emails, so there’s no way to get any answers).

    Apple’s policy will simply change one day and something will get through that didn’t before. I just think Apple’s sort of overwhelmed at this point and didn’t think that ebooks would be a big deal. That will change, especially as traditional publishers put their books up.

    Also, remember: I put my book up as a free app. Apple doesn’t have any great incentive to approve it because it won’t make any money off it. Once there’s some revenue involved for Apple on big books that are “R” rated, they’ll get through. Of course, most of the books will be overpriced at first and won’t sell much.

  11. Of course, most of the books will be overpriced at first and won’t sell much.

    Now that I’ll agree with you on, David. 😉

    As for the rest, I doubt that robots are running Apple, at least not until Steve Jobs goes. Surely we can find humans to hold responsible for the censorship. Don’t the anonymous flunkies answer to someone? Even the software filters have humans involved—to set ’em up.

    Also, remember: I put my book up as a free app. Apple doesn’t have any great incentive to approve it because it won’t make any money off it.

    But I doubt Apple has been an easier on paid apps. I wonder if MoJo hoped to sell her book.


  12. I’ll leave you with this, David. That Knife Music got through after its minor “cleansing” and some attention was brought to the fact that a novelist had to censor his work to get in the App store is in its own way fighting Apple. With a number of people (in message boards like this) somewhat outraged that I would be forced to censor the book sends a more forceful message to Apple than I ever could by whining that my app got rejected. That people think I’m a wuss for caving in and selling out is another matter. As Kurt Vonnegut might say, “So it goes.”

  13. Detail, in response to Moriah: When I mention gratuitous obscenity, I

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