Update: So there is a bit more to this story than once thought.  Apparently Delicious Library, a media manager for Mac OS X created by Delicious Monster, was the first known piece of software to use a virtual bookshelf to display content.  According to TechCrunch, Wil Shipley, the founder of Delicious Monster, believes Apple borrowed the idea for iBooks without licensing it.  This is fairly believable considering some of Delicious Monster’s original employees actually work for Apple.

As one of our readers, izdale, has highlighted in the comments section below, the Classics developers have stated their design was inspired by Delicious Library, and they apparently asked for approval before releasing the app.

It’s possible that Apple took the design from Delicious Monster, but in the end it’s a difficult argument to make.  I mean, where would you put your virtual books?  On a virtual bookshelf, right?

During yesterday’s iPad presentation, it became apparent that Apple’s iBooks UI designers were at least somewhat influenced by iPhone developers Andrew Kaz and Phill Ryu’s Classics eBook reader design.  But honestly, how couldn’t they be?  Classics has a simple and elegant UI that makes it a joy to use.  Instead of getting upset over the similarities, Andrew Kaz and Phill Ryu are actually proud to have influenced Apple’s iBooks design, and have decided to thank all of their supporters by allowing everyone to download their app for free for a limited time.

Classics‘ bookshelf design looks a lot like Apple’s iBooks‘ and it acts pretty much the same as well.  You can view all of the books on your virtual bookshelf with a simple flick up or down, tap on a book to open it, and tap and hold to drag and sort your books.

Classics also features an intuitive  interface that allows you to flip virtual 3D pages by dragging your finger across the screen.  The pages track your finger’s movements, so you are able to peek at the next page while finishing a sentence if you wish.  You can also view how far along you are in a book via a progress bar at the top of the page, and the app is able to remember your place in a book when you close out of it and marks it with a satin bookmark.

The app contains a wide variety of classic books, such as The Time Machine, Gulliver’s Travels, Dracula, Pride and Prejudice, The Art of War, and many more.

Classics is normally available in the App Store for $2.99, but you can download it right now for free.