Bye-bye, Buy: Apple changes app policy?

Bye-bye, Buy: Apple changes app policy?

No, I’m not quoting ‘N Sync in this headline (although the pun is intentional).  😉

Back in February, there started to be a lot of talk about changes to Apple’s appstore, and what that might mean for Amazon.  I’ve written about that a couple of times before.

One of the big issues for Kindleers?  Many people read their Kindle books on iDevices: iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads.

Currently, you need to download an app from Amazon to do that…and that app goes through Apple.  If Apple said no (and they did that to Sony earlier this year), that app is basically not available.

Why does Amazon publish an app that lets you read on a non-Amazon device?  Doesn’t that hurt their own Kindle sales?

Well, Jeff Bezos has publicly talked about the Kindle hardware and e-book business being two different things.  Obviously, if you buy a Kindle you will be more committed to buying books from Amazon.  However, Amazon wants to sell you e-books even if you don’t have a Kindle.  Admittedly, I doubt very many people buy Kindles without the intent to shop  for content at Amazon…it’s a good device even if you don’t use Amazon, but I think that would be a tiny minority of Kindle buyers.

So, Amazon’s free Kindle apps have all had a way to buy books from the Kindle store.  I use Kindle for PC and Kindle for Android.  They both have Kindle Store buttons.  I could buy Kindle books directly from my SmartPhone, if I wanted.  That could sell books and help justify Amazon’s development costs.

But you know what?  I’ve never done it.

I’ve never bought a book from either my Samsung Captivate or my Kindle for PC.

I suspect that’s true for a lot of Kindle owners.  I do shop for Kindle books using my PC, but not my Kindle for PC.

That may be different for Kindleers who don’t own a Kindle.  I’m guessing they do buy through the apps.

Apple is reportedly changing its app policy.

We first heard that they were going to require app publishers to have a button that allowed content that the app played to be purchased through Apple.  Apple would get a 30% cut of that purchase.

Well, thirty percent is all Amazon gets on Agency Model books sales, so that wouldn’t work out very well…for Amazon.

Apple also didn’t let you charge more through the app than you did somewhere else.  Let’s say the book cost $9.99 in the Kindle store not through an app.  Amazon got thirty percent of that from an Agency Model publisher.  If they wet through an IAP (In App Purchase) at Apple, that would be about another three dollars to Apple.  What if they could charge more to make up the difference?  To make up the $3 Apple would take, you can’t just charge $3 more…because Apple takes the thirty percent of that new price.   So, you’d have to charge…$13.90, approximately, to make it up.  Amazon can’t charge a different price for a book under the Agency Model, though, so it would have to be an IAP fee or something.

Now, according to this

All Things D article

Apple is going to allow different prices…you can charge more at Apple than you do somewhere else.

Again, I don’t think that really helps Amazon, though.

I thought this line, quoted in the article, was hilarious:

“11.13 Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app, such as a “buy” button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected”

That sounds a bit specific as an example, right? They’d rejected Sony’s app…so who else does that? I suppose they could have said, “Apps from companies named after South American rivers…” 😉

It doesn’t mean the Kindle app goes away from the iPad…it means the Buy button goes away.

That’s not that big an inconvenience for most people. After all, you could just go to on the browser on your iPad and buy the book.

It does reduce the impulse buy aspect…and people do impulse buy books. Maybe not as much as they used to impulse buy…you don’t usually see paperbacks at the checkout stand in a grocery store or Target any more.

My guess?

You’ll be able to read your Kindle books on your iDevice…you just won’t have in-app buying for them.

Of course, when Amazon gets full books in Kindle for the Web, which it says is coming, you’d be able to buy and read them in the same place…on a website, not in an app. That’s not a perfect solution (there are advantages to reading a downloaded book), but it will work for many people.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

16 Responses to “Bye-bye, Buy: Apple changes app policy?”

  1. Gretchen Says:

    That’s bad news for me. I have a Kindle and an iPhone. I read mostly on my Kindle, but I do most of my shopping through the Kindle app on my phone. It’s especially convenient when a paper book catches my eye in a store, I just pull out my phone and get it for my Kindle. I suppose I could still do that by going through safari, but I don’t think it will be as quick and easy.

  2. Betty Says:

    There is no “Buy” button on the Kindle app. There is a “Kindle Store” button which takes you to a Safari page. It may look like an App, but the Kindle Store is just a web link.
    It sounds to me like Amazon meets Apple’s new requirements.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Betty!

      That sounds to me like it would violate this:

      11.13 Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchases or subscriptions to be used in the app, such as a “buy” button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected”

      What you are describing to me seems to me to be a link to an external mechanism (a website) for purchases. Does it open to a specific book? Does it open to the Kindle store/Amazon? Or does it just open to your Safari homepage? I would think the last is okay…the other ones sound like what they are prohibiting, if this quoted section is accurate.

  3. Marvin Says:

    Kindle for iPad opens web browser if you want to buy something from Amazon, so I don’t see a change here. What I hate about Amazon content on iPad is I cannot get magazines and blogs delivered to iPad. I really hate that sometimes I take only iPad with me, not the Kindle (my SO occupies it) and I cannot read purchased content on it.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Marvin!

      If it is taking you to a “web site to purchase a digital book”, that’s what it sounds like is prohibited. You could just open Safari separately, of course.

      I’m with you on the subscription items. Amazon has said they are coming to the reader apps, and magazines have already come to Kindle for Android. They didn’t mention blogs, though.

  4. Tom Semple Says:

    The new policy will in no way prevent you from purchasing content on iOS. The Kindle app (and Kobo/Nook/etc.) just launch Mobile Safari now. Bookmark the storefront and you can easily access storefronts with just another click or two. It’s in some ways better: you don’t need to launch Kindle app first. For extra credit, storefronts can develop a ‘shop for books’ web app that will install on Home screen and bypass App Store.

    In fact it is so easy that one has to wonder why Apple bothers to change anything. All it does is reflect poorly on iOS user experience, at least once one comes to understand it is just Apple policy rather than any technical limitation. It will be interesting to see what the various vendors replace the Buy button with. A ‘how to buy’ button? Click to install our storefront web app?

    Will existing apps be kicked out of App Store if they don’t update to remove the Buy button?

    I’m also curious about what some 3rd party apps will do (Bluefire and txtr for example).

    Note that iTunes desktop app now lets you browse iBookstore and purchase.

    • Tom Semple Says:

      There is one other thing: currently Kindle ebook Samples have a link on the last page to initiate purchase of the book. Is Amazon expected to block those as well? Technically it is not part of the app…

      • bufocalvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Tom!

        That one occurred to me, as well as the end matter in some of the books that let you purchase the next book in the series. As you say, though, that’s not part of an app, so my guess is those are safe.

  5. Edward Boyhan Says:

    The WSJ today had a piece on this as well:

  6. Edward Boyhan Says:

    And I realize All Things D is a part of the WSJ, but the article reference I posted seems to focus more on the looming Apple vs Publisher conflict than any concerns about Amazon. It seems to me that the whole content creation, ownership, pricing, distribution, consumption chain is getting awfully complex.

    There are too many middlemen trying to feed at the cash stream trough. I would think that the net and ebooks should facilitate a simpler model: one more direct between the creator and the consumer — with the creator getting to keep a much larger fraction of the purchase price, and the consumer (in general) seeing an overall diminution in purchase price levels. Alas, at least for the short to intermediate time-frame, that does not seem to be the path down which we are a stumbling.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I don’t think most creators want to have to handle all the attendants elements to the transaction. As Elizabeth is quoted as saying, “The only thing I like about acting is acting.”

      Hmm…this might be worth a longer treatment….thanks!

  7. Alexandre Costa Says:

    Amazon could also offer its books on a dedicated iPad friendly webapp. It allows you to use iPad’s storage space to deliver a near native experience for the reader… as an option, not as the only option.
    I have both a 2º generation kindle and an iPad, and I’d love to continue to have the option to download all of the books I’ve purchased from Amazon (near 150 titles, for now) to my iPad native App.
    It makes me feel I own those, even knowing they’re as untangible as bits on the bright screen.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Alexandre!

      Amazon has already announced that Kindle for the Web is going to to do full books. That way, Amazon will store them and you’ll read them in any reasonable web browser…so you’d be able to read them on an iPad that way.

      They also have a free reader app for the iPad…if you’d like to download your books to the iPad, you can do that now. When you say “native App”, what are you picturing that is different from the Kindle for iPad app?

  8. Alexandre Costa Says:

    Additionally, even when Amazon could put a free “buy button” on its iPad/iPhone app, they didn’t, it didn’t, and I suspect why: it’s not interesting for them to let Apple count part of their sales number. Amazon is utmost ‘low profile’ when it come to show its numbers… The button, whether it drains 30% or not, threatens Amazon’s sales announcement (or NON-announcement 🙂 ) strategy.

  9. Round-up #40: Kindle iPad app, animation, The Book Depository « I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] earlier post […]

  10. DoJ proposes Apple punishment…and it’s a doozy | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] a lot of talk about that when that prohibition was put into the Apple Appstore (I wrote about it in Bye-bye, Buy: Apple changes app policy? more than two years […]

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