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Why Are My Books Being Deleted?

Posted on: August 8th, 2012 by Craig Rairdin 7 Comments

Lately we’ve been seeing an increasing number of reports of the iPhone or iPad deleting PocketBible books to make room on the device for newer apps, music, or content being downloaded to the device. The assumption seems to be that PocketBible is doing something “wrong” and we need to fix it. It can be argued, however, that PocketBible is following the rules but a) the rules are not what you think they are, and b) the rules keep changing.

When the memory on your iOS device gets close to being full, the operating system looks for files it can delete to make room for whatever it is you’ve asked it to store — usually pictures, music, videos, apps or other large files. This makes the books you download for PocketBible vulnerable to deletion (just as your other data is vulnerable when you download PocketBible books onto a relatively “full” device). To get around this, we originally stored your books in a folder where the operating system promised not to delete them.

When iCloud came out and users started backing up their devices to the cloud, all those files started filling up Apple’s servers. Apple was concerned about the volume of data it had committed to store, so they contacted developers and asked us to move our files into folders that were not backed up to iCloud. Included in the list of files that should be moved were any files that could either be re-created the next time the program ran, or be easily downloaded again. This included PocketBible books.

While it would’ve been easier for Apple to just buy more hard drives for their servers, we agreed to move our files as requested. What they didn’t explain at the time was that by moving the files to the suggested folders, they would be subject to deletion as the device approached its memory capacity. After receiving some complaints, we contacted Apple and they told us how to mark files so they would not be purged even though they were in a folder that is normally purged when the device is low on memory. This solved the problem for a while.

It appears, however, that Apple has released an update that ignores the “do not purge” flag on our files and deletes them anyway. They are now saying we should move the files back to where they were before, but mark them as “do not backup”.

This is a consistent pattern with Apple. New releases of the operating system break small things that were working in previous versions. Rather than fixing the OS, Apple asks all its developers to modify their programs. Since they’re Apple, they can do this and get away with it.

One of the problems we face at Laridian is that making changes to an app and re-submitting it to the App Store for approval is a tricky proposition. Last time we did it, Apple rejected the app not for anything that had changed, but for a feature that had been in the program for the last five or six versions that they had previously approved. It took us three months and three more submissions (each time following the instructions they gave us to assure that the program was more likely to be approved) before Apple finally approved the app.

So we don’t submit PocketBible for re-approval without making sure we’ve included all the changes we might want to make for the next several weeks or months because it is a potentially lengthy process. Right now, we’re in the middle of some changes to PocketBible for Windows, Android, and iPhone to support some new features. We’d prefer not to do multiple submissions and so are hoping to complete these new features before uploading a new version to the App Store.

In the meantime, if your memory usage hovers around “full”, be proactive and remove some PocketBible books that you don’t absolutely need. It’s not that hard to simply re-download books as you need them. I regularly show up at church on Sunday morning and realize all my books are gone because I’ve been removing and re-installing PocketBible during testing. It’s simple enough to grab the Bibles and dictionaries I regularly use on Sunday morning while we’re singing our opening hymns so they’re there for the sermon. I can pull down my commentaries later as I want to use them.

While you’re doing that, we’ll work on yet another update to where your books are stored. And hopefully Apple will approve. :-)

7 Responses

  1. Desmond Fuller says:

    I have seen this issue on an iPad with 41GB free. All the bibles, commentaries, etc disappeared.

    • Desmond,

      This can happen if you delete PocketBible and re-install. If it happens at other times, it is the operating system making room for some other program you have that needs more memory.

      I have a 64GB iPad 3 with less than 41GB free and I’ve never seen it happen. It’s probably some other app you have installed that wants more space.

  2. Lawson Culver says:

    I’ve had it happen a couple of times. Once was on the new iPad, that still had around 20GB free.

    Something that would be nice would be a button that would allow us to “restore” the iPad to what is supposed to be on it. For instance, even if it is forced to delete the books, it would keep track of knowing what was supposed to be installed (and what tab it was on, etc.) That way, when the space issue is resolved, it can be “restored”.

    I’ve dealt with Apple more times than I’ve liked on at least three apps. Every so often you get assigned a random reviewer that will find an “issue” at any cost. Sometimes it’s appropriate, but sometimes it’s because they don’t understand the rules themselves. More than once I’ve been able to appeal the decision and get my apps published.

  3. Lawson Culver says:

    … that said, I think the errant deleting of the books is obviously more likely a bug on Apple’s part vs. anything the PocketBible program is doing wrong.

    • Lawson,

      I’m not crazy about building in an explicit feature to work around a temporary bug. And Apple is picky about anything they perceive as criticism of the platform that shows up in your documentation or “What’s New” list. (I have a penchant for writing snarky comments in our “What’s New” list. Once I forgot to censor myself and got an app rejected on the basis of the metadata, which was kind of funny.)

      I agree that what we’re doing here is working around an Apple bug. We followed their direct suggestion (they gave us the code for marking files as non-purgeable) then in the next OS release they started ignoring the “do not purge” bit. Now they have another suggestion. I don’t expect this one to work any better over the long term.

  4. Michael says:

    Although I can understand the challenges of changing requirements, it is still a frustrating situation. I have other similar products with upwards of 2GB of titles without loss of books on my 64GB iPad. Other apps appear to be able to overcome the issues without backing up to the iCloud, so it appears that the something is amiss.

    My only consoliation is that the bandwidth at my company is large enough that I can download all my resources in about 20 – 30 minutes. If I had to do it at home, I would give up.

    Hopefully a future version will be able to overcome this limitation.

    • Michael,

      Like I said, it IS possible to overcome the issues without backing up to iCloud, something IS amiss, and a future version WILL be able to overcome this bug in Apple’s code.

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