101220-smurfs-01One of the great innovations Apple brought to the app store in the last couple of years has been in-app purchases—for apps that were willing to give Apple a cut of the proceeds, at least. This leaves every e-book app except iBooks high and dry.

But perhaps this is not as bad as it might seem after all.

One app that uses in-store purchases is the “freemium” Smurf Village game for the iPad, in which long, time-consuming tasks can be skipped by using “smurfberries”—which cost real money, and can be bought from within the game. In-app purchases are supposed to require entering a password, just like purchases from the iTunes store itself—but if the password has been entered for other reasons within the last fifteen minutes, the iPad will not ask for it again.

As a result, Consumer Affairs reports that some parents of kids who play the Smurf Village game have been getting hit with unexpected smurfberry bills. And given that the largest possible smurfberry purchase is almost $100 in one go, that can really add up. (And an AP story reports one parent found his kid was somehow able to make the purchases even if he waited more than 15 minutes after entering the password before giving the iPad to him.)

In-app purchases can often be disabled using parental controls, but not all parents may be aware they even exist. The app’s developer is adding a pop-up warning to the app, making it clear that smurfberries cost real money, but there are still plenty of other games and apps that allow in-app purchases that don’t have those warnings.

So, perhaps it might be for the best that e-book apps do not allow in-app purchases. After all, your kids can only blow $100 a pop on smurfberries—but there are Kindle e-books that cost as much as $6,232. That would be one heck of a “one-click purchase.”

(A number of people managed to purchase the ridiculous $1,000 “I Am Rich” iPhone app by accident during the brief time in which it was offered in the app store, so I have no doubt that if it were possible to make that sort of mistake with a $6,000 book, someone would.)

(Found via Engadget.)


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