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Stanza e-book app maker says Apple nixed USB transfer [Updated]

February 2, 2010 | 12:08 pm

Stanza iPhone updateUsers of the popular Stanza e-book reading app for iPhone can no longer move books to their PC with a USB cable.

In an updated version to its Stanza app, Amazon Inc.-owned developer Lexcycle said Apple required the company to remove a function that allowed USB file transfer.

Lexcycle, which was acquired by Amazon.com Inc. last year, has become one of the iPhone's biggest e-reading applications, with more than 2 million downloads of its application and 12 million book downloads, according to the company.  With the announcement of Apple's new iBookstore, Amazon and Apple are newly at odds in the burgeoning e-book market.

The new version of Stanza "removed the ability to share books via USB as required by Apple," according to the app's update page.

As described in the Stanza FAQ here, previous versions allowed users to move e-books from an iPhone to a computer and back via USB cable.  But that type of transfer also required the use of a third-party program called iPhone Explorer, which allows users to copy files easily off of their iPhone.

Apple has long restricted the ways that owners of its mobile devices can move files around. The easiest way to move files from iPhones and iPods to a computer is through Apple's proprietary iTunes program, which only allows the devices to transfer files to a single computer.  The Stanza app circumvented that protection -- a move Apple may not have liked.

Apple responds below.

Stanza users can still move files to a PC running Stanza's desktop application but only if both the iPhone and the computer are on the same WiFi connection.

Update #3, 4:36 p.m: In an upcoming iPhone OS release, Apple may be planning to give developers access to multi-use storage space, so apps like Stanza can maintain USB-transferable files, writes Chris Foresman of Ars Technica.

Update #2, 2:04 p.m.:  Apple confirms Devor's guess.  The company's statement reads, "We requested Stanza remove the USB functionality in their app as it was a simple case of the developer using private APIs in violation of the developer agreement."

Update #1, 1:07 p.m.: Chris Devor of myPod Apps, which built the iPhone Explorer program Stanza used for USB file transfer, had this to say about why Apple might've objected to Stanza's approach to USB file transfer (emphasis added):

From an iPhone app development standpoint, you get access to two directories: (1) your app's sandbox folder and (2) the DCIM directory for access to pictures and such. On a non-jailbroken iPhone, iPhone Explorer can access the DCIM directory, but not the apps sandbox. So we made a subfolder in the DCIM directory a common ground or shared folder for the two programs.

At the time we began doing this we figured that we were in the iPhone app development "gray zone" and this was something that Apple hadn't officially made a stance upon. Once Good Reader topped the charts around the world, it drew a bunch of attention from people and Apple figured we were up to no good. After a series of e-mails back and forth between the iPhone app developers and an Apple correspondent, the conclusion was as follows: (1) the iPhone apps must remove access to the DCIM directory (Apple claims this is in violation of the iPhone App Developer Agreement), and (2) the developers should not blame (point the finger at) Apple for being forced to remove access to the folder (hence the lack of explanation from Stanza).

-- David Sarno

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