Apple Slams the Door on eBook Apps


Just as iPad and iPhone users were getting used to purchasing and downloading their Kindle, Nook, Google and OverDrive eBooks through the respective apps on their Apple devices, Apple has pulled the plug on those apps that made it possible. That is to say, you must now go through the Apple iStore to purchase your eBook through your iPad, iPod and iPhone. You can still download and read it on your iPad and iPhone – for now – you just can’t buy it directly through those apps. Now that Apple has you hooked and you’ve purchased your iPad, they can change the rules and make you – them – pay!


Kobo Blog posted this on July 23.

Earlier today Apple instituted new rules which affect your experience on iPhone and iPad apps. The biggest change is the removal of the ability to shop within our app.
Here’s what this means for Kobo users:
• Your books are safe! You can continue to use the Kobo app to read them, explore Reading Life, and enjoy all the other fun and engaging reading features from Kobo you’re familiar with.
• With this change, iOS users wishing to access their Kobo account, browse the Kobo Store, and purchase books will now need to go to Kobo.com
• You can still browse Kobo’s selection of 2.4 million eBooks, shop and access your account! Go to Kobo.com by directly opening and using their Safari browser or using your favourite web browser on your phone.

It was reported back in February that Apple was cracking down on apps developers and making them route purchases through their iBookstore. Apple Moves to Tighten Control of App Store by Claire Cain Miller and Miguel Helft, published: February 1, 2011.

Apple said on Tuesday that it was still allowing customers to read e-books they bought elsewhere within apps. For example, a Sony app could still access books the customer bought earlier from Sony’s store.

But Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division, said on Monday that Apple had told his company that from now on, all in-app purchases would have to go through Apple.

“It’s the opposite of what we wanted to bring to the market,” Mr. Haber said. “We always wanted to bring the content to as many devices as possible, not one device to one store.”

Apps like the Kindle app from Amazon.com and the one that Sony submitted open up a browser window when a user wants to buy something. This allows the app makers to argue that technically the purchase is happening on the Web, not within the app.
Apple is now saying the app makers must allow those purchases to happen within the app, not in a separate browser window, with Apple getting its standard 30 percent cut of the transaction. At the moment this applies only to e-book purchases. [Emphasis added.]

So what? Well, according to Mike Shatzkin’s Blog post “Publishing is living in a world not of its own making on July 24, 2011;

Kobo just delivered a new iOS (that’s Apple’s operating system for iPad and iPhone) app that no longer contains the direct link to the Kobo bookstore within it. …

Later news on this developing story is that the Google app has been “pulled” and that the Nook Children’s app no longer has a link to the store. We have to expect that the Kindle and main Nook apps will undergo the same change very shortly.

That will mean that the simplest and most seamless way to buy and read ebooks on the iPad or iPhone will be through Apple’s iBookstore. It will almost certainly mean a growth in iBookstore market share at the expense of all the other ebook retailers. It will also almost certainly mean that a lot of people who read their ebooks on an iOS device (I’m one of them) and prefer to use any of the other ebook retailers (and I’m one of those too) will be inconvenienced and annoyed. [Emphasis added.]

For more information, read;
• “The expulsions have begun – Google Books gone from iOS” at The Digital Reader, July 24.
• The Wall Street Journal also announced late Sunday that it would no longer sell content directly through its own app, July 25.

The email notice I received from Amazon.Com just today stated:

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

We’d like to update you on a change to the Kindle application that affects the way that you access the Kindle Store. In order to comply with recent policy changes by Apple, we’ve removed the “Kindle Store” link from within the app that opened Safari and took you to the Kindle Store.

You can still shop on iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch–just open the Safari web browser and go to Amazon.com. (For quick access, we recommend creating a bookmark in your web browser.) Your Kindle books will be delivered to your Kindle application and automatically downloaded when you open the app. Thanks for being a Kindle customer.

While Shatzkin’s point regarded the impact of Apple’s business decision on the publishing world, and how it is at the mercy of commercial vendors and technology developers, we – the eBook readers – are also similarly affected. eBook readers are at the mercy of the commercial creators and marketers of eBook reading devices and their eBook retailing subsidiaries. Make no mistake about it, commercial entities will ALWAYS chose the path of self-interest, profit and company growth. When you try to anticipate the future of libraries, this is one unchanging factor you can ALWAYS count on.

Regarding this new condition for your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, the alternative is to purchase your eBook from its source using their online store, then upload it to your iOS device using their App. Experience has shown that Netflix, for example, is much easier to use if you select movies for your que by accessing your Netflix account online from your computer, then access your que from your player, whether it is a Netflix equipped Wi-Fi DVD player, or Wii, or iPad, or smartphone. Those devices were meant for playing – computers were meant for accessing online – and websites were built for full-sized browsers.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “Apple Slams the Door on eBook Apps

  1. This is another reason why I’m dumping my iphone for Android.!
    Sick of Apples greed.

  2. In your first paragraph, you write, “Just as iPad and iPhone users were getting used to purchasing and downloading their Kindle, Nook, Google and OverDrive eBooks through the respective apps on their Apple devices, Apple has pulled the plug on those apps that made it possible. That is to say, you must now go through the Apple iStore to purchase your eBook.”

    This is a bit misleading. Apple has not pulled the plug on these apps, they’ve required them to remove the link these apps had to their respective websites. The last sentence in the above quote is completely incorrect. You don’t have to eBooks through “the Apple iStore” (I don’t think there is any such thing called the iStore), but you can still go to Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, etc. on your iPad or iPhone, purchase a book and it will show up in the app on the iOS device.

    I personally feel as most do that Apple’s requirement of this is heavy-handed, but the end result doesn’t change much other than removing the link to the bookstores in the apps themselves.

    • Thanks for pointing out that I left that sentence incomplete. It now reads – “… you must now go through the Apple iStore to purchase your eBook through your iPad, iPod and iPhone.” I guess I assumed readers would get that by reading the whole Post.

      I also quoted Amazon’s notice to customers saying “You can still shop on iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch–just open the Safari web browser and go to Amazon.com. (For quick access, we recommend creating a bookmark in your web browser.) Your Kindle books will be delivered to your Kindle application and automatically downloaded when you open the app.”

      At the end of the Post I pointed out that customers can visit their eBook provider’s website; “the alternative is to purchase your eBook from its source using their online store, then upload it to your iOS device using their App.”

      My use of a generic “iStore” term is simply a euphemism for the collective Apple online stores – iTunes Store and Apps Store. Chalk that up to artistic license.

  3. Kay Dee

    Mac/Apple/I(whatever)….has always made a practice of exclusionary business tactics. It is unfortunate to see this latest move on their part.

    LOL-makes me wonder if on casual Fridays at the Apple offices they all wear t-shirts that read “Doesn’t play well with others.”

    Too bad…info and resource sharing across platforms is a fundamental part of moving technology forward and making it accessible to everyone.

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