Apple is finally getting round to enforcing its new app purchasing guidelines after reports emerged over the weekend of direct puchasing links being removed from some third-party apps. Kobo removed the direct e-bookselling links from its Apple apps. According to reports the Nook Kids app and the Wall Street Journal have also removed links to purchase content directly, while the Google Books app has disappeared entirely.
E-book companies now have the option of selling direct through Apple's iTunes store at a cost of 30% per transaction, or hoping customers buy direct from their own stores and use the app only for reading material. It was expected that the Apple would begin enforcing its new rules from the summer, however the move has still surprised some commentators with Amazon's Kindle app still unaffected so far.
Mike Serbinis, Kobo's chief executive, told the WLS that Apple told Kobo Saturday that it could no longer operate its digital bookstore from its Kobo apps and had to stop selling e-books directly through them. Kobo changed the apps so that they no longer show direct links to buy digital titles. Announcing the app update on its Kobo blog, the company: "The biggest change is the removal of the ability to shop within our app." It send its customers to Apple's online feedback form to make their concerns known.
Google Books, a mobile app that lets people buy e-book disappeared from the app store over the weekend. Neither Apple, nor Google has commented on the development. Other e-bookselling apps such as the Nook app, and the Kindle app remain unaffected.
Apple introduced its new in-app purchasing rules February, demanding that all commercial content made available through apps had to also be made available through the iTunes store, and that links to purchase the content externally should be removed. It modified the rules in June so that content could be viewed so long as the direct links to buy it were removed, or replaced with an in-app purchasing tool that would see Apple take 30% of any e-book bought.
Some are fretting that Kobo won't be able to survive giving away 30% of its revenue, though we do not know how big that business was or whether users will simply visit the Kobo website anyway to buy, without the need for the direct link.
The big showdown -- with Amazon -- has yet to happen though it now seem inevitable. Of course no-one expects Amazon to go quietly into the night, and it could move to replace its native app with a web-based version, and then a souped-up version using HTML5. Most likely in the short term it will wage a guerilla campaign claiming that Apple is limiting its customers' choices by restricting their purchasing choices with an unreasonable fee - even though as yet Amazon allows no third party e-bookseller access to its platform.
The simple fact it that no third-party aggregator can afford to pay a 30% fee for being the middle-man on a platform it does not own itself, meaning that in the short term the e-book market is going to be a less interesting environment for book readers. It hard to see that as good news. It also seems unnecessary. Apple made a profit of $7bn on sales of $28.5bn in its recent third quarter. It sold more than 30m iPads and iPhones in that quarter generating close to $20bn in sales from and off those platforms.
To paraphrase others, it is winning the war, but losing the peace.
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