5 reasons Apple’s touch App Store approach is the beginning of the end for iBooks

Further from yesterday’s news, the argy-bargy continues with the Sony Reader iPhone app and Apple.

After several posts, updates, claims and counterclaims, tech blogs *Mashable*EngadgetTechCrunch and others are starting to agree on the nub of the issue.

The story so far

So, yesterday the news broke that Sony’s apps had been rejected by the Apple app store. The reason has evolved slightly, but the upshot seems to be hidden in the App Store fine print…

Section 11.2 reads:

Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected.

So, depending on how you read it (and enforce the rules) Apple can argue that ereading apps including Amazon, Kobo, Borders, B&N have technically always been in breach of this rule – they flick buyers out of their apps to their own sites to buy ebooks. So why were they allowed in the App Store in the first place? Who knows, but it looks like Apple are about to get serious about enforcing their in-app purchasing rules.

Whether this is a bad move (I personally think it’s a very bad move, for reason’s I’ll detail later) or not, that’s their perogative. They’re a business, right?

Curiously, today Engadget has the following response from an Apple rep:

“We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines. We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.”

So, “we have not changed anything, except that we kinda have”. At least in the enforcement.

So that, at the moment, seems to be the bottom line: ebook vendors have to have an in-app (read: in iTunes) purchasing option, as well as (or instead of) linking out to their own sites to sell ebooks.

So what now?

With Apple’s iBooks offering still struggling, and getting smashed by Amazon on catalogue range (even more so if you live outside the US) and probably sales, on one level it would make commercial sense for Apple to start trying to drive ebook purchases through iTunes. Otherwise others profit from the strength of Apple’s ecosystem, without Apple getting a cut.

But when looking at the “big picture” enforcing this is a ridiculously bad idea for the following reasons:

  1. Apple paints itself as the big, bad corporation, and gets in a fight with everyone. It’s already a PR disaster.
  2. The more they enforce their rules, the more they remind everyone that they are running a very closed ecosystem that can change on a dime, and the more they drive people to Android.
  3. If Apple want to be pernickety, app-makers can too. All Amazon (and co.) have to do is tweak their app so that there is also a semi-hidden in-app book purchasing option that is extremely hard to find. They have offered the option, if you can find it. Of course that takkes resources and Apple can reject an app like that if they want – but then refer #1 and #2 of this list.
  4. This will only accelerate Amazon’s plans for their own Android app store, which can’t be far away from launching. Hey, look, kids! Yet another reason for users to choose the Android platform (and not Apple/iBooks).
  5. As newspapers behind paywalls have seen recently, traffic, content and money love company. If you’ve got less traffic than the other guy, publishers give their new content to the other guy first (they want it seen by and many eyeballs as possible) and you become an afterthought. And advertisers put their money where the traffic is.

Hey – the nature of Apple’s Apps Store is that they can change their rules or enforcement tactics at any time, so this could all blow over very quickly. It needs to, for their sake, because this bloody-minded approach will only tarnish their brand, and give users, publishers and advertisers more reasons to go elsewhere.

Via Jason Davis’ Book Bee blog

9 Comments on 5 reasons Apple’s touch App Store approach is the beginning of the end for iBooks

  1. I honestly hope they do in some ways…

    Time to let the big boys who know how to play the game to play it and the ones who have been getting the free ride can get stuck in the everything “for free” piracy wonderland known as Android.

  2. It seems to me that Amazon can simple add In-App purchasing but charge a sur-charge for folks that do buy this way… the sur-charge can cover Apple’s cut. Need less to say, no one will use the In-App method and just go to the browser.

    Alas… I don’t think Sony has a way to get stuff from some “cloud storage” so it may not be as easy for them.

  3. Brian/AnemicOak // February 2, 2011 at 3:30 pm //

    “It seems to me that Amazon can simple add In-App purchasing but charge a surcharge for folks that do buy this way… the sur-charge can cover Apple’s cut. Need less to say, no one will use the In-App method and just go to the browser.”

    Unless Apple also has a clause saying that both types of purchases must cost the same amount. It wouldn’t surprise me if they do.

  4. It should come out in the wash soon …
    http://www.9to5mac.com/

  5. To heck with the money issues — I want to see the Kindle app display an iBook; that’ll be quite the trick. Or is the iBookstore going to start carrying e-books in AZW format with Amazon’s DRM?

  6. “It seems to me that Amazon can simple add In-App purchasing but charge a surcharge for folks that do buy this way… the sur-charge can cover Apple’s cut. Need less to say, no one will use the In-App method and just go to the browser.”

    If it is an agency book then they are probably not allowed to add a surcharge. Or they must call it shipping costs.

    Teleread: Why do you make these Captchas so extremely hard?

  7. “This will only accelerate Amazon’s plans for their own Android app store, which can’t be far away from launching. Hey, look, kids! Yet another reason for users to choose the Android platform (and not Apple/iBooks).”

    If you really think “open” is what these publishers really wanted to begin with then you might actually believe this is the moment Android has been waiting for.

    BUT if you have actually been listening to the publishers now whining about getting caught in their own game they have been working hard to create all those eBook readers and their multitude of DRM formats… their very own walled gardens. So then you might logically realize Apple’s model is exactly what they want.

    They just don’t want to pay Apple it’s cut for getting the job done right.

    Android has also become a proven “money loser” for app developers the facts are very clear and you can read story after story of app developers creating apps for Android that just end up being hacked and stolen. Androids “open platform” while functional to a lot of third party cell phone companies and hardware makers has also become an easy target to pirate and then the devs and content creators their companies make NO MONEY.

    So I still say Apple is only going to maintain and push forward in their iPad success and these publishers will have to come to the understanding that they are the tail and Apple is the big dog here. They have to do what Apple says if they want a piece of that pie.

  8. Logan Kennelly // February 2, 2011 at 7:58 pm //

    Teddypig, you seem very anti-Android and somewhat pro-Apple, but your last comment seems somewhat interesting. If the numbers are to be believed, then hundreds, if not thousands, of developers are making significant sums of money. Just pop on over to a site like AppBrain and check out the price of applications compared to the number of downloads.

    Or is this another “piracy appears to be high so even though I’m making tons of money look at all the money I _could_ be making” story? To make it even more relevant to the normal copyright-infringement discussion around here, take note that, according to an August Pingdom article, Android is available in 46 countries but only 13 countries can legally purchase applications.

  9. I am not against android in fact I am waiting for one of those new tablets to play with.

    Right and those 36 countries are not using any of those for purchase only apps at all. There is a lot of copying and hacking going on with android and since it does not really have a very good marketplace it would be hard to tell how bad things actually are.

    The fact amazon as stated in this very article wants to get in there and have it’s own version of an android app market shows how fragmented android is.

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