Here I go, turn the page.

On the NY Times Bits blog, Nick Bilton gleefully reports that the patent office has seen fit to award Apple a design patent on, of all things, the digital page turn used in iBooks. Bilton uses this as proof of the ridiculousness of the current patent system, as well as a reminder of the obnoxiousness of Apple’s recent patent litigation practices. But is this patent really as silly as it looks?

As some people point out in the comments under Bilton’s article, the patent is narrower than Bilton makes it seem—it doesn’t cover any page turns, just the particular one iBooks uses, with its specific animation and the bleedthrough of text from the back of the page. It doesn’t cover other forms of page-turning.

Of course, if the patent is as “obvious” as Bilton and some others think it is, there will be ample prior art to use to fight it if it ever comes up in court. (Such as Classics, whose entire interface iBooks basically copied.) So either way the patent may not be as bad as it seems. Regardless, page-turning animations are popular in e-book applications, so if Apple does plan to use this as a patent weapon, we may see it tested sooner than later.



  1. I am happy Apple patented this. I hope they are going to defend this patent very fiercely and I hope they also patent other forms of useless page animation that you can’t switch off.

    I strongly dislike such animations. And I dislike applications where you can’t switch those off. It might look cool when you are a salesperson showing of the gizmo to a customer, but it quickly becomes tiresome. To me it looks as if a car manufacturer installed a player that would produce the sound of hoof clacking and installed air freshener that would fill the car interior with a smell of a fresh horse manure. Cars were once horse carriages, weren’t they?

  2. I suggest that, just to be on the safe side, everybody doing ebook reading applications cease and desist from using all forms of skeuomorphism altogether. No animations, no “wooden bookshelves”, just go with function over form. Just say no and save the litigation fees.
    Of course, I despise skeuomorphism in anything reading-related and want to see it exterminated, but that *would* avoid all possibilities of infringement on this particular design patent. 😀
    ebooks need animated page turns as much as racing motorcycles need training wheels.

  3. From what I read about the recent shakeup at Apple (two top execs ousted), it seems that skeuomorphism is on the way out there.
    In iBooks, tap on the Font icon, select Themes and then the Scroll theme. This will yield a very functional interface to the text. The Full Screen theme does away with the spine and page simulations but retains the page turn.
    One can have a vigorous debate over the merits of skeuomorphism. Here’s an excellent review of the topic with pros and cons.

  4. These sorts of things ought not to be patentable. What should be protected is the code used to get there. If you build the identical virtual mousetrap using your own lines of electronic code that you can demonstrate are different than the challenger, then there should be no breach of law.

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