June 30: Judgment Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

June 30: Judgment Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

Summary: Time is running out for Amazon and other e-book sellers to comply with Apple's demands to implement in-app purchases by June 30, 2011.

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Time is running out for Amazon and other e-book sellers to comply with Apple's demands to implement in-app purchases on the App Store by June 30, 2011.

June 30th, 2011 will be remembered as e-Book Judgment Day on Apple's App Store.

Back in February, Apple changed a number of its rules concerning in-app purchases by content providers as well as for e-Book sellers. Essentially, if you provided a method for purchasing content outside of the application, you also had to include a native in-app purchase mechanism as well, so that Apple could get a 30 percent cut on each purchase.

Additionally, Apple has now required under section 11.13 of the App Store developer agreement that "Buy" buttons that spawn external browser sessions in content consumption apps are no longer permitted and will be rejected. This explains of course why SONY never got their eReader application accepted into the App Store, and the companies have been at loggerheads ever since.

The deadline for implementing these changes in subscription apps was set for June 30, 2011.

Earlier this month, Apple seems to have blinked. Newspapers and Magazines which publish apps on the App Store that handle subscription-based content appear to have been given a pass.

The "Buy" button for these subscription content providers is still banned, but the rules have been relaxed for requiring in-app purchases, and Apple will not be getting 30 percent cuts of those external transactions.

That's great for companies like the New York Times, Newsweek or TIME Magazine. That's not so hot for companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, however.

Apparently, the rules still apply to electronic booksellers or any other content seller, such as a Marvel or a DC Comics, which do provide in-app purchasing mechanisms.

As of today, both Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's NOOK applications for iOS still spawn external browser sessions to complete purchases, and do remote syncs of purchased content. This means they are currently non-compliant under Apple's rules.

What are Amazon and Barnes & Noble likely to do? It's hard to say for sure, but they have a number of options. The folks over at PaidContent.org have written a pretty good overview of what the companies could do.

The first of course would be to comply to the letter of the law and implement an in-app purchase option in addition to removing their "Buy" buttons which spawn the browser sessions.

However, my guess is that making this the only way of purchasing e-Books on their apps would be a very difficult or even an impossible pill for these two companies to swallow, with having to give Apple 30 percent on each transaction.

The second would be to make the Kindle and NOOK apps pure "Content Receiver" apps. In other words, they would sync external content purchased on the respective Kindle and NOOK web sites in user initiated browser sessions on the devices or from their PC/Macs, but you couldn't initiate a purchase directly from the app.

The third is a bit more dramatic -- cut the cord, and walk away from the "Walled Garden" of the App Store, and move to the world of HTML5 web standards to deploy their e-book content.

My industry colleague Simon Phipps over at ComputerWorld UK has recently written about the Financial Times, who has gone and done just that -- escaping the "App Trap". They've built a multi-platform web app in HTML5, which runs on any number of device web browsers.

Amazon has been experimenting with this sort of HTML5 technology for a while. The Kindle for the Web app is in beta and is currently used in order to show Kindle book previews on author web sites.

So what happens June 30? Well, I'm betting that at least in Amazon's world, they're going to go "Content Receiver" on the Kindle iOS application and very likely launch Kindle for the Web shortly thereafter, and maybe even exit the iOS ecosystem completely at a future date, especially when their very own Android Tablet arrives, likely sometime in the Fall.

Barnes & Noble? My guess is they haven't developed anything as sophisticated as Kindle for the Web as of yet, and probably will be forced into changing their app to pure "Content Receiver" mode.

What exactly happens on e-Book Judgment Day is anyone's guess. But for companies like Amazon which have a strong business model for selling e-books, the future for providing content to iOS-based customers is clear: The Open Web.

Will Amazon go HTML5 on Judgment Day? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Amazon, Apple, Hardware, Mobility

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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96 comments
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  • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

    Amazon's margins aren't strong enough to hand 30% of each sale to Apple. Apple has jumped the pooch and screwed the shark with this one.
    robin@...
    • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

      @robin@... I agree, and to be honest, I find the Amazon Kindle a far more compelling product when it comes to eReading. Amazon has proven already that it can innovate. Apple has basically walled Amazon out of its garden - and thus will only make Amazon's presence even stronger on Amazon's own platform!
      Imrhien
      • The problem is that Amazon's own platform does not exist yet; Autumn will

        @Imrhien: ... show what kind of tablet they will deliver. Kindle is not serious enough to be compared to Apple's platform.
        DDERSSS
      • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

        @Imrhien Absolutely agree. Kindle is for READING and it's a damn good device for it. I liked the iPad Kindle app for technical reference books, so I could go to a particular section of a book quickly. The web version of kindle solved that for me. No need for an iPad now (Sold mine 6-7 months ago).<br><br>If you can't use the iPad for all your computer needs, then it's not a platform I want to own.
        SamFromAshburn
      • The Kindle ecosystem is compelling because it extends across all my devices

        @Imrhien

        ... my Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Mac and PC.

        Here's what Jason is not telling you. The current "Buy" button setup in the iOS Kindle app is pretty much useless. The Kindle apps for iOS are already what he's calling "Content Receiver" apps. The "Buy" button is essentially just a hyperlink connected to a button icon. As a user of the Kindle iOS apps, you learn very quickly to just put a link to the Kindle Store on your Home screen, otherwise you wind up having to go into your reader app just to click on the button to be brought into Safari anyway. If Amazon pursues what Jason is calling the second option, it will have very little real impact on sales or usability.
        RationalGuy
      • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

        @DeRSSS The Kindle isn't a tablet, it's a reader... They're completely different things. Way to understand what a product does...
        snoop0x7b
      • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

        @Imrhien IMHO the best of the ereaders out there right now is the Nook Color... I have several reasons for saying that but the most relevant one here is that the Nook Color (which runs a version of Android Froyo) can be rooted (or dual or even tri booted to run the stock Nook Color OS, Froyo, Ginerbread, and/ or Honeycomb) to run full Android. And with that one can have the Nook app, the Kindle app, and any other Android compatible ereader app.

        I've made the argument before based on my understanding that Apple is not by any means eliminating the current purchasing system where a separate browser session is initialized to make the purchase but that Apple is simply making the devs to make purchasing available [i]within[/i] the app as well. I do think that since Apple has eliminated this for the newspaper and magazine apps they should do the same for every other app that uses an external means of purchasing additional content.
        athynz
      • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

        @Imrhien Just another reason to use Android tablets or a Kindle if you like.
        blueskip
      • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

        @Imrhien -- absolutely correct! Apple's arrogance will only hurt them and Apple users (who might soon begin to wonder if the razor wire and guard towers on that wall support the illusion that they're really in a 'garden').
        gafisher@...
      • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

        @Imrhien -- absolutely correct! Apple's arrogance will only hurt them and Apple users (who might soon begin to wonder if the razor wire and guard towers on that wall support the illusion that they're really in a 'garden').
        gafisher@...
    • Oh, please. Amazon will simply amend its royalty

      structure and increase Amazon's cut from 30% to 40% for domestic book order. My guess is they'll eat it on the international sales royalties (they currently take 70%)
      fr_gough
    • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

      @robin@...

      Agreed. Kindle is one of the most used apps on my iPad. If they force out all of the book ecosystems excepts Apple's own I pretty much have to move to a different device and different ecosystem.
      SlithyTove
      • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

        @SlithyTove --- Screw Apple and Amazon. Get a Nook Color from B&N. For $250 (half the price of the cheapest iPad) you get a great ereader that just happens to come with a fully functional Android tablet. Go figure!
        simul8guy
      • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

        @simul8guy For the Nook Color to be a fully functional Android tablet one has to root it or use an SD Card set up with the full Android OS on it. The stock Nook Color is indeed Froyo but a limited version.
        athynz
      • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

        @SlithyTove From an authors point of view (my own), Apple is a headache about 5 years behind what Amazon and B&N are at for ease of use for the independent seller. The reason that the e-book publication industry is expanding is that the authors, not the publishers, are finally making the majority of the money rather than a small pittance cut which you cannot obtain unless you are already independently famous. One publishing agent put it to me bluntly, unless I'm already famous it is a 1 in a million shot to get your first book even looked at. The royalty which Apple imposes and the fact I have to write my book in HTML code for Apple has so far made me choose to NOT work with that company. They may have an insanely large user base, but translating several hundred pages of books into code is not a valuable use of my time.
        andoenfw
      • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

        @SlithyTove Can you say Android? This wouldn't even be a discussion on an Android device.
        blueskip
      • Message has been deleted.

        wackoae
    • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

      @robin@...

      I agree, and IMO if Amazon threatened to pull off of iPad altogether, Apple would cave in a heartbeat. Without the Kindle app for iPad, they lose a very substantial percentage of those who want to use the iPad as a book reader. Kindle is most readers' default bookstore, and I think having Amazon pull out of iPad would at the very least make tablet customers consider alternative tablets or Kindle readers instead of iPad. Jason's mention of an Amazon tablet is right on target, and the current Kindle has quality and usability comparable to iPad. If Amazon releases a tablet with the build quality of the current Kindle, this Apple move will drive consumers who read on tablets toward the Amazon tablet instead of iPad.
      1DaveN
    • RE: June 30: Judgement Day for Amazon's Kindle on Apple's App Store

      @robin@... I agree and wold think that the three major ebook peddlers could agree with each other for a much lesser share .. volume discounts.
      Like many Apple users, I feel they do go to far in some instances.
      781lc
      • Before the iBook .... Amazon charge up to 70% commission

        @781lc I'm not a fan of what Apple is asking for in-app-sales. But if it weren't for Apple, authors would be making a lot less per ebook .... because Amazon was charging more than double ... which explains why for a long time, an ebook was almost as expensive as a physical book.
        wackoae