November 21, 2012

Turning the page … to a new patent for Apple


Apple now has a patent for the ebook “page turn” animation.

Last Friday, Nick Bilton declared “Apple Now Owns the Page Turn” in a post on the New York Times Bits blog, referring to a new patent giving rights to the finger initiated animation that simulates a piece of paper turning in an ebook:

If you want to know just how broken the patent system is, just look at patent D670,713, filed by Apple and approved this week by the United States Patent Office.

This design patent, titled, “Display screen or portion thereof with animated graphical user interface,” gives Apple the exclusive rights to the page turn in an e-reader application.

Yes, that’s right. Apple now owns the page turn. You know, as when you turn a page with your hand. An “interface” that has been around for hundreds of years in physical form. I swear I’ve seen similar animation in Disney or Warner Brothers cartoons.

(This is where readers are probably checking the URL of this article to make sure it’s The New York Times and not The Onion.)

But not so fast! Readers and other news outlets were quick to temper Bilton’s headline, explaining that other devices owned their own form of the page turn and that this animation was nothing new. On the Moneywatch blog at CBS, Erik Sherman wrote a post titled “No, Apple doesn’t own the mobile ‘page turn'” criticizing Bilton in particular for assuming Apple was victorious in out-patenting its rivals:

everyone can relax—Apple doesn’t own the concept of page turning animation. If you own an Android device, you won’t have to suddenly forgo seeing the more than 1,000 pages of “War and Peace” meander across the screen.

But then who created the original digital page turn? In a post on the matter, Forbes links to a Swedish website called Perfect Fools from 2002 that uses the page turn in the website design, ostensibly suggesting that could be the first instance.

The page turn takes its main inspiration from books, though the earliest makers of bound codices didn’t have the foresight to apply for patents from a government that wouldn’t exist for thousands of years. Apple’s main innovation here is then taking the idea of the page turn and putting it on a screen, or, more accurately, copying someone else’s animation and patenting it.

There’s a number of ways to make a page turn.

In fact, even I did it in this video:



Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.