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Is Apple's iBooks e-reader app a rip-off?

A Wired blogger is accusing Apple of copying the user interface for its iBooks app from the iPhone book-reading app Classics.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
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David Carnoy
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Apple's new iBooks app as it appears on the iPad. Apple

If you're among those wondering why Apple's new iBooks e-reader app may have looked vaguely familiar, the answer is Apple may have ripped off the user interface from an existing iPhone app, according to Wired blogger Brian Chen.

The app in question is a popular book-reading app called Classics, which rounds up a bunch of public-domain titles in a slick-looking package that features a user interface with various titles perched on a bookshelf.

The article also suggests that the UI similarities extend beyond the top-level interface. "The pages emulate the look of a printed book page," Chen writes. "The 3D page-flipping effect looks almost exactly the same. The only major difference is iBooks has a tool to change font point and type." Also, Apple's app integrates access to the iBooks store, which will feature titles from Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette book group.

Interestingly, however, Phillip Ryu, one of the people behind Classics, acknowledges that Classics' bookshelf view was inspired by another app, Delicious Library. However, he asked Delicious Library creator Wil Shipley for his blessing before Classics was released. (A reader pointed out that Shipley is now an Apple employee, but that doesn't appear to be the case based on Shipley's recent Twitter post stating, "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?").

Ryu told Wired he felt a little hurt, but he remains loyal to Apple and isn't "planning on picking a fight."

That said, he doesn't seem to mind the publicity and is offering Classics as a free download (iTunes required) for a limited time so people can check it out for themselves and make their own comparisons to iBooks.

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The Classics app as it appears on the iPhone. Apple