TMO Interviews Will Shipley: Delicious Library for the iPhone


Even if you don't recognize Will Shipley by name, you almost certainly know who he is. He's the original developer and major force behind Delicious Monster, the company that makes the super-popular and award-winning Delicious Library application for the Mac. The big news from Delicious Monster this week is that they are shipping a free iPhone app that acts as a companion to the new 2.1 update to Delicious Library. We sat down with Will to discuss this.

TMO: So tell me about the new iPhone app for Delicious Library.

Shipley: It's really quite simple. It's a "read-only" app. By that, I mean that you can't make any changes to Library data from the iPhone app. All you can do is see the information

But it's rock-solid stable and displays the data beautifully, with some neat tricks. If you tap to show the details of an item, you can then flick through the detail listings of all items without having to return to the main screen. You can also scroll a screen smoothly, both horizontally and vertically. I figured out how to do this myself and even Apple was impressed with how well it worked.

To transfer your Library data to the iPhone, all you need to do is have Delicious Library running on your Mac with your iPhone connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Select to sync from the iPhone app and you're on your way. The data are stored locally on the iPhone. This means, after the sync is complete, you can access the data from anywhere, even if you are not on the network. The listings even show your complete iTunes Library data.

[TMO note: I just tried out the iPhone app. All went smoothly. The initial sync works similarly to syncing media from your Mac to an Apple TV.]

TMO: I assume you can't sync over the Internet, just via a local network.

Shipley: That's right.

TMO: I'm sure you know where I am going next. But here it is: Wouldn't it be great if you could use the iPhone's camera as a barcode reader, so that you could enter data into Delicious Library directly from the iPhone just via a scan?

Shipley: Absolutely. I'd love to be able to do that. In fact, I'm sure I could easily get it to work. Plus, with the new camera on the iPhone 3G S and its ability to focus, it would work spectacularly well. It would be even better than the camera feature in Delicious Library for the Mac, which was mainly designed to work with the non-focusing built-in iSight camera.

There's just one problem: Apple won't allow it.

TMO: What do you mean?

Shipley: In order for me to do it properly (that is, without requiring a jailbreak of the iPhone, which I don't want to get involved with), I'd need access to the camera's APIs. So far, Apple has refused to permit this. Believe me, I've asked. But Apple has it locked down.

TMO: Gee, that's too bad. I'm sure that would be a popular feature.

Shipley: Yes. To be frank, I believe it's a bit of unfair competition on the part of Apple. If Apple wanted to make such an app, they could do it. Because they have access to all their APIs. But I don't so I can't. If Microsoft tried to do what Apple is doing, they'd be sued. But Apple appears to be able to get away with it.

I have some other ideas for iPhone apps that also use the camera. But they are all on hold for the same reason. The App Store can be very restrictive.

TMO: How are you finding the WWDC?

Shipley: Great. I've spent most of my time catching up with people I know. I haven't really gone to many sessions. There are too many beginner and intermediate level sessions for me. I understand why Apple is doing this. Something like half the people are here for the first time. But it works out less well for me. Still, I just came from an awesome session on NSImage.

TMO: Do you have any new updates planned for when Snow Leopard is released?

Shipley: We have nothing planned at this time.

TMO: When I first met you, you were working with Mike Matas, who was the interface designer. He has since left for Apple. How has that worked out?

Shipley: We're doing very well. But I have to say that Mike is not the only employee of mine to have been "stolen" by Apple. It's happened so many times that I imagine some people seek to work for me just so that they can move to Apple. I had one person recently who did some work for me for free. I was so impressed, I decided I would hire him. But he had already been offered a job at Apple.

TMO: Well, I guess you can also look at that as a compliment to how highly Apple regards your work. Anyway, it's been great talking to you. Take care.



Just a note to Shipley (I assume he’ll read the article!) about his comments regarding MS:

They do, in fact, hide/reserve many of their APIs for themselves. I haven’t heard of any lawsuits.


Chas - I believe there was one from WordPerfect, or perhaps Lotus, over the fact Office was able to use private APIs to gain (un)competitive advantage.

It’s always a problem, in that it’s evident that Apple’s private APIs often turn into public APIs later (which makes sense in some ways - you want to create, debug and simplify/clearup a framework before locking it down with a public definition) but there are other ways you can do that (such as private frameworks within apps).


This is a great app, both on the Mac and the iPhone.  I upgraded last week as soon as it was announced, and have used it quite a bit since. 

I have several hundred books, both paperback and hardback, old and new.  I am still inputting the information, and use camera, hand isbn input and manual input.  With new books, the camera scan works great.  Older books, not so much, the hand entry for an isbn scan works well about half the time.

For manual entry, scanning the book cover using my HP scanner/printer and pasting the resulting jpeg into the proper field works like a charm.

Synchronizing the iPhone with the database on my Mac is dead simple, and having the information with me at book stores, Yard sales, and second hand book stores is fantastic.

If I had to find something to complain about, I’d like a way to adjust the artwork field to match my artwork.  Having to experiment with the media type to do that is awkward and the results are not always satisfactory.

For future versions, I’d like a way to manually enter a new book at the bookstore onto the iPhone, even if it meant going through a scan process after syncing with the main program later.

Nice to see would be a “shopping list” area where I could enter information on future publications or new books in series I am following so when I go to the bookstore, the information is handy, and entry into the library after it is bought would be as simple as checking a “purchased” box!

Overall, tho, this is a great new version and it is very handy!  Yes, rock solid too.

Tobias R?del

Hi there.

Regarding the need to access the camera api:
Take a look at the appstore application pic2shop. Works great!

Kind Regards,

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