When Apple was demoing its new iBooks application for the iPad today during their keynote address, I just kept thinking to myself: this simply must have been designed by Delicious Monster, the shop behind the brilliant Mac app Delicious Library. I’m not the only one who thought that either. Delicious Monster founder Wil Shipley thought the same thing. The only problem? His shop didn’t make it.
In fact, Shipley was quite vocal on Twitter during the keynote today about the situation. “No, Apple didn’t license iBooks from me. They just copied me. Ah well,” he wrote. Later, he added, “I guess it’s not enough Apple has hired every employee who worked on Delicious Library, they also had to copy my product’s look. Flattery?” While Shipley tries to play it off as not that big of a deal, clearly he’s pretty upset about it. And he should be. I mean, the bookshelf view in iBooks is nearly identical to the main bookshelf view used in Delicious Library. Not only that, but it’s not like this is a little-known app that Apple may have missed: it has won the Apple Design Award twice, and been a runner-up one other time. Apple gives out those awards.
Still, as Shipley notes, iBooks is only for eBooks while Delicious Monster is for all types of media, and has much more functionality. But if Apple really did hire much of Shipley’s team then just re-create the look, that’s a little shady. We’ve reached out to Shipley to confirm those hires and will update if we hear back.
Back in July, you may recall that Shipley had to kill the Delicious Library iPhone app because of a change to Amazon’s APIs for pulling product data.
You may wonder why Apple didn’t just hire Shipley if they poached his whole team? “They couldn’t afford to hire me,” he writes.
Update: Shipley has responded with some lengthy comments.
Notably, he says, “[Delcious Monster co-founder] Mike Matas was a UI designer on the iPad, [former employee] Lucas Newman is an iPhone / iPad engineer, and [former employee] Tim Omernick was an iPhone / iPad engineer but left a while ago to work on games independently.“
“But the thing about iBooks is, it’s a book-reader. So, of course they looked around, found the best interface for displaying books (Delicious Library’s shelves), and said: yup, this is what we’re doing,” he went on to say. “Although Delicious Library was the first to do it, we didn’t try to copyright the idea of wooden shelves, or of showing books photo-realistically. ‘Look and feel’ is kind of an outmoded concept, I think.“
“Now, of course Apple couldn’t contact me ahead of time and say, ‘Hey, we’re taking your idea, thanks.’ Their lawyers would worry they’d open themselves to a huge lawsuit, for one, and they’d also be leaking a secret. Nor could they write me a check. Even a token one would be an admission (in their lawyers’ eyes) that they were copying something. They are a public company — they can’t write someone a check unless they got some value in return. And if they got value, the lawyers would ask, how much was it? How was it determined?,” he continues
“So their official policy has to be, ‘No, of course it’s a crazy coincidence that these shelves look almost entirely like Delicious Library’s shelves.‘,” he concludes
But this goes even deeper for Shipley:
“As a creator, part of what I seek is recognition, immortality. I don’t work for Apple, or Google (I’ve been offered jobs & buyouts) because I want the fame myself. It’s my shot at immortality. My designs are my children. So it stinks when I feel like Steve might get the fame for my innovation. I lose my children, as it were.“
“But your children aren’t really yours. They have lives of their own. So when your designs do change the world, you have to accept it. You have to say, ‘Ok, this was such a good idea, other people took it and ran with it. I win.'”