There was some buzz about this last week, but now it’s official: Writer Matt Fraction revealed on Twitter yesterday that Apple will not carry the second issue of his comic, Sex Criminals, and he quoted Apple’s stated reason why: “We found that one or more of your In-App Purchases contains content that many audiences would find objectionable, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.”
On the one hand, that’s not terribly surprising: Sex Criminals, written by Fraction and illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, is a “sex comedy” about a couple who can stop time by having sex, which opens the door to all sorts of larcenous activities. Naturally, it includes a fair amount of sex. When he learned that the second issue was “under review” by Apple last week, Fraction actually commented “How the first book made it through and the second one didn’t, I don’t know.”
This doesn’t mean you can’t read Sex Criminals #2 on your iPad, though. Apple has a curious double standard when it comes to this kind of thing: While it won’t allow digital distributors such as comiXology to offer Sex Criminals as an in-app purchase, it is available in the iBooks store. ComiXology users can also go ahead and buy the comic via comiXology’s website, and it will sync to their comiXology apps on all their other devices. And finally, Sex Criminals publisher Image offers it as a direct download from their website.
Although it seems like censorship at first blush, Apple’s decision is really more about marketing. They are quite happy to sell the comic via iBooks, or to let app users sync it onto their iThings; they just don’t want to offer it as an in-app purchase. In general, they have a policy of not allowing super-sexy comics or other material for in-app purchase (violence seems to get a pass), perhaps because they see different audiences for the two types of reading—and it may be that younger readers are more likely to use in-app purchases than the grownups. That’s just a guess, but either way, it seems that Apple sees two different audiences for iBooks and apps, and they are only going to sell adult comics to one of them.