Apple’s new rule preventing e-book apps from linking to outside storefronts appears to be in effect. Developers are pushing out updates to their apps that bring them in-line, and Google Books is just gone. But what will Amazon do, and how will it affect iOS?


Update: The Google Books app is now back in the App Store, after making changes that put it in line with Apple’s newly-enforced rules. Amazon has also updated its Kindle app and removed the link to its store, which means it, too, is playing nice with the revised App Store guidelines.

Many, myself included, were hoping that Apple’s implementation of new rules that prevent e-book retailers from linking out to their own storefronts had permanently fallen by the wayside when they didn’t immediately go into effect after the original June 30 cutoff date. Unfortunately, events this past weekend proved that may not be the case.

The biggest development is that Google Books is no longer available on the App Store. The app, introduced in December of last year, allows users to read books from Google’s e-book service. It also provides access to the web-based Google eBooks store, which is against Apple’s new rules. The banning of outside links seems designed to prevent e-book resellers from bypassing Apple’s own in-app purchase mechanism, from which Apple garners a 30 percent cut of revenue.

While Google hasn’t yet confirmed that the rule change is the reason for the app’s removal (we’ve contacted them and will let you know if they do provide comment), given changes that have taken place in other e-book apps in recent days, it seems very likely. E-reader software from Kobo and Barnes & Noble has been recently updated, and the links to their respective online stores are now absent from the app.

The last major holdout is Amazon, which still hasn’t issued a change for its Kindle app. Kindle for iOS still prominently displays a button that links out to the Kindle store on the web. Amazon is arguably the only e-book retailer in a strong-enough position to be able to negotiate with Apple regarding the new rules for e-book stores, since it reaches a very large audience through its presence on virtually every platform. Amazon is also known to be working on its own tablet device, which could give it even more bargaining power. Barnes & Noble and Kobo would likely stand to gain a lot if Amazon decides to leave the Apple ecosystem and go it alone, since users who decide to stick with iOS will need a replacement e-book resource.

As a Kindle user and iOS-device owner, I’m hoping that we see a solution that allows the Kindle app to remain in the App Store. But as an industry observer, I’d be very interested to see who would fare better if users are forced to choose between Amazon’s better e-reader software and library, or Apple hardware. Anyone care to place any early bets?

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  1. I seriously doubt the Kindle app will be leaving the iPad but if it did it would be a serious issue for me.

    1. You shouldn’t state this as fact in the headline btw when you don’t know its true. its a sleazy way to get page views.

  2. I never use the Kindle store because of Amazon’s silly insistence that you set up an account and turn over a credit card number BEFORE even being able to browse for titles. I want to experience the store and see if I like the interface before I bother with setting up an account. FAIL!

    1. iTunes works the same way. Take a general purpose gift card you might still have a couple of bucks left and use that to register. You can browse, pull in free stuff and not have to worry about your primary card information being stolen if the site is hacked.

  3. I understand what Apple is doing and what the other book stores are not. So the question is, how hard is it to put a button in your app that launches the browser with the store site URL already filled in and the go button pressed? Is there no way to program it?

    1. They’ve been doing that up to now to bypass the 30% cut. As of July 30 it will be against the rules to link to an outside store.

      1. I wouldn’t say they’ve been doing it to “bypass” Apple’s cut – their market predates Apples, is multi-platform, and is completely independent of Apple’s distribution system for many reasons. While I can see how others might exploit it to release app DLC, that wasn’t the case with the bookstores, they were never Apple’s business in the first place. A 30% cut for Apple (plus the cost of added distribution systems to make it available that way) on ebooks from other retailers would force a price increase that would make them non-competitive with Apple’s own iBooks.

        It’s a gray issue that Apple chose to cut black and white, the consequence also being that it makes Apple’s content more convenient to purchase on iOS devices.

      2. I thought that was to link to the outside store via the app, as in direct communication between app and store using http protocol, bypassing iTunes AND bypassing a browser. I thought the latter ywo methods were still legal.

      3. @yacko: No, they won’t even allow a link to the website now, that’s all the Kindle app did. That’s why this move is so obnoxious.

  4. Steven Roussey Monday, July 25, 2011

    How long before Apple starts demanding 30% of every paypal transaction, and every bank transfer done on “their” phone?

  5. The Financial Times took an early out from the Apple edict with its slick new web app; they quickly gained impressive sign-ups taking traffic away from their native app implementation and Apple’s lock on their subscriptions.

  6. Oh! I say GoddBye, too! :)

  7. Kindle has been updated. It no longer has the Kindle Store button.

  8. Personally I already switched over to B&N for pretty much all my ebooks, and as a result recently bought a nook touch. My reason was simple – Kindle still won’t let you properly adjust your font or colors, so I find their app more of a strain to read on. I always had to decrypt my kindle books shortly after I bought them so I could read them with stanza (or aldiko on android) instead. The nook app provides a more comfortable reading experience so I just download and read.

    I know many people don’t care, but I do almost all my reading in ebook form on small screens, and have for years. I don’t understand why the Kindle has one of the most restrictive reading environments, when making your text look clean and relaxing to your eyes is one of the most powerful features of digital books.

  9. “I’d be very interested to see who would fare better if users are forced to choose between Amazon’s better e-reader software and library, or Apple hardware. Anyone care to place any early bets?”

    Apple. Apple fanboys don’t mind getting it up the ass, and are willing to pay out of it to get it. If Steve Jobs says they should not use Amazon, most will not use Amazon, period. It doesn’t matter if Amazon has a better product, what Job’s says goes with Apple fanboys.

  10. “proved that may not be the case” is a meaningless phrase. Either events this past weekend proved that that is the case, or events this past weekend proved that is not the case. One can not prove that something “may” be the case.

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