Flash! Apple DOESN’T ban James Joyce’s Ulysses

Flash! Apple DOESN’T ban James Joyce’s Ulysses

There’s a story buzzing up the blogosphere and the internet forums right now.

It’s being reported as Apple banning James Joyce’s Ulysses.

That’s simply inaccurate.

People who don’t know this blog may be surprised that I’m clarifying something in Apple’s favor, based on the fact that the name of the blog is I Love My Kindle.

I like all the EBRs (E-Book Readers).  I like things that promote reading generally.  🙂  Now, I do like some better than others (Kindle…nudge, nudge) but I’d like them all to be successful, and all to be wonderful experiences for their users. 

I like truth and accuracy (oh, and totally subjective stuff…when clear that’s what it is).

In this case, what is happening is that Apple rejected a specific graphic novel of Ulysses for the iPad.


It has full male frontal nudity in it.

I’m going to link to a news story where you can see the image…so I’m warning you, this may be NSFW (Not Safe for Work)

The Big Money article

 I was first alerted to this through this

Amazon Kindle Community thread

Just like deleting George Orwell was particularly ironic in Amazon’s case (since repressing information was a theme of Orwell’s 1984), it would be ironic for Ulysses to be banned by a company.  It was banned under some obscenity laws, although that is not currently an issue for the book in the US.

However, Apple is not banning Ulysses.  You can read Ulysses on your iPad.  You can do that through the Kindle for iPad app, although you can get it a number of other ways as well.  It may be in the iBooks store in other versions.

Now, you could argue that Apple is banning the graphic novel…sure, that’s reasonable to say.  That’s not the same as banning Ulysses, though.

Apple doesn’t allow “pornographic” apps for the iPad.  It’s probably not a very subjective standard…I would guess there are a list of rules that include “no full male frontal nudity”.

As was commented in the thread, does that mean they ban Michelangelo’s David?

Maybe, I don’t really know.  I would presume that you can appeal a ban decision to Apple.

Now, is this censorship?

It’s certainly not government censorship.  I’ve frequently seen people confuse that.  If your company says you can’t talk about the election to your customers at work, is that infringing your First Amendment rights?


The First Amendment affects what the government can do, not what your boss can do.

Companies have the right to tell you what you can say…at work during the course of your employment.

They can tell you not to speak to the media.

They can tell you not to mention the competitor’s product.

They can tell you not to talk about the baseball game to your customers during the scope of your employment.

I’m not saying whether that is wise or not, just that it is legal.

I’m surprised that people are offended by the idea of Apple’s action…they think that Apple (and presumably other book providers) should not choose the books at all…anybody who wants to sell anything through the store, that should be okay (according to some people).

I presume that would include libelous material, ones with massive typos, ones that say they are unabridged (but are abridged), bait and switch titles (it says its one thing but it is something else), unauthorized copies…

I would guess most people would expect a bookstore manager to remove books where, say, the middle chapters were missing.

“But wait,” you say, “that’s not based on content.”

Right, but stores get to choose what content they want to sell, too.

If you have a cookbook store, is it censorship if you don’t want to carry science fiction? 

similarly, if you have a romance store, is it censorship if you don’t choose to carry graphic novels?  Even if those are romance graphic novels?

I wouldn’t use the term censorship…it’s retailing.

So, I think Apple is absolutely within its rights in this case.  You are in your rights to complain about it, of course…you know, at home…not if they tell you not to complain about stuff in front of customers at work.  😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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