Blog Post

Google Books says goodbye to Apple App Store

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 (s aapl) 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 (s goog) 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 (s bks) has been recently updated, and the links to their respective online stores are now absent from the app.

The last major holdout is Amazon,(s amzn) 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?

21 Responses to “Google Books says goodbye to Apple App Store”

  1. Lauretta

    I have an iTouch, and have seriously thought about upping to an iPhone, now that it is available via Verizon… I was OK with their “big brother” style software, and even willing to live without Flash on my mobile.. but this new development makes me want to throw out all my apple products and buy a Droid on principle. What kind of shady business practice is this?
    I feel that apple is slowly digging their own economic grave, alienating groups of the buying market, one by one.

  2. I feel that Apple has a pleasing reader for the iPad, however not all the books I wish to read are available at the Apple store. Amazon/Kindle have a better book selection and carry more more of the authors that I read. The books not the company will be the deciding factor for me.

  3. Martin

    And people ask why it is so difficult to like Apple. Here is a very good example. This can only help the sales of Android Tablets. There is a phrase… you can fool some of the people some of the time but not all the people all of the time. Maybe it is something that Apple should think about.

  4. Where have Apple’s lawyers been during this fuss? The fact that virtually no one is signing up for Apple’s “offer” demonstrates, in a legal sense, that it isn’t a legitimate, good faith business effort. So does the pitiful services Apple provides for that 30% slice of retail. No, it’s a rule manufactured to weaken competitors to Apple’s iBookstore by forcing them to remove customer-friendly features that iBooks has. I wouldn’t want to go to court with those sorts of facts.

    High technology is littered with the bones of corporations who ran afoul of the law doing just what Apple is doing. AT&T once restricted what could be attached to ‘their’ phone lines. IBM once restricted what third-party equipment could be attached to ‘their’ mainframes. Microsoft’s much discussed legal offense was much smaller–merely shipping Windows with ‘their’ browser but not Netscape. Do Apple’s lawyers think that Amazon, Google, B&N and the rest aren’t without friends in Washington?

    And for what? It looks like the rule will earn Apple little or nothing. It certainly won’t cover that legal expenses should the feds step in.

  5. “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.

  6. Larry Mao

    “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.

  7. 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.

  8. Maureen

    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.

  9. 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?

      • 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.

      • 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.

  10. HD Boy

    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!

    • 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.