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Soon to be the only game in town?

Apple has long been known for having a draconian stance on what gets into the App Store. The latest victim of that approval process could set a dangerous precedent with repercussions within the e-book marketplace. Sony submitted an app for their e-reader (albeit, a couple of years late to the game), which was rejected by Apple because of the fact that it allowed users to purchase ebook titles from within the app. This has been Apple’s stance on e-book reader applications as users of either the kindle or nook apps know – the app opens Safari so that you can browse the selection and make your purchase, then download within the app to read your content. But the second part of Apple’s rejection of  the Sony app gets dangerous – according to this article published by The New York Times,

“they have told some developers, including Sony, that users of the app can no longer have access to content purchased outside of the app store”

The implications of that statement could be devastating to the ebook marketplace, but could have even larger ramifications for all media not purchased from within the confines of the App Store model.

nook Kids really shows what the platform can do

It seems as if Apple is making an attempt to make the iBook app the only game in town. The current fragmentation in ebook readers is troublesome, true, but I enjoy the flexibility in being able to shop around for a book and still be able to read it on my iPad or iPhone in its own app. I have a first-gen nook reader as well, so I like being able to read my content on either device. The new nook kids app for the iPad is incredible for children’s books as well, and really showcases what can be done on the platform. This decision, if carried across to the other reader apps, would effectively shut them down completely. While I like the shine and polish of the iBook app, finding books in the store is difficult and the selection is a fraction of what is available for the Kindle or nook. Publishers simply aren’t flocking to the Apple bookstore model, and I don’t think that strong-arming them will help that situation.

Will this become a thing of the past?

As usual, the ones who will feel the impact of this decision the most will be the consumers. Speaking from my own experience, I’ve gotten used to being able to read through a quick chapter on my iPhone nook application while I’m at lunch, pop open my nook to read out on the back patio, and use the iPad nook app to read in bed where it’s darker and harder to read the e-ink display on the nook. Barnes and Noble even syncs the book across the platforms, so I pick up where I left off no matter what device I’m reading on. Having that flexibility should be what an open marketplace is all about – my content, purchased where I choose, and consumed on the device I choose.

That’s what makes the iOS devices so attractive, they can become that one-stop shop to consume whatever media I desire, be it my books purchased at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, my movies on Netflix or that I’ve ripped from my personal DVD collection (hello, fair-use), my audiobooks on Audible, or my magazines on Zinio (although, their magazine store is censored for content so maybe not the best example). To not allow any outside content that is not sold directly through Apple channels could be a crippling decision, and one that I hope Apple rethinks. It wouldn’t be the first time Apple takes a firm stance on an app, only to approve it later due to public pressure (Google Voice, I’m looking at you). This should be where Apple is focused, making the iPad the go-to device for media consumption. I mean, why would I want a Kindle and a nook, when I could have a single iPad that can display content for either, and do so much more to boot?

What do you think? Leave me a comment below and let’s continue this discussion, or shoot me a tweet @andymartinaz.

(via The New York Times)

UPDATE - Apple has put out an official statement to All Things Digital on their position:

“We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines,” company spokesperson Trudy Miller told me. “We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.”

So, this means that Amazon and Barnes and Noble will most likely have to redesign their apps to allow browsing and purchasing from inside the app itself, driving those transactions through the App Store model and giving Apple their standard 30% cut on the sale. On the surface, I find it interesting that this decision by Apple comes very soon on the heels that Amazon announced that they sold more Kindle books than physical books so far this year. Could be that Apple is simply getting greedy, since they certainly aren’t selling that kind of volume in their own iBook Store.

(Via All Things Digital)

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About The Author

Avatar of Andy Martin

Andy is a long time gadget hound, networking architect, musician, and all around media addict. When he's not working and learning about new ways that technology helps our lives, he's watching his fish, teaching his kids in the finer aspects of growing up geek, playing guitar, or playing way too much World of Warcraft. Find out more on , and follow him on Twitter @andymartinaz

9 Responses

  1. Avatar of Dave Curlee
    Dave Curlee

    Yes I do believe they are getting a little greedy. However, it’s a good business decision on their part. If I had the ability to get a cut from each e-book sold on my device, I’d likely take it. What I don’t want to see though is the “You can only transact via our store” move. If they did decide to restrict the readers and force only purchases through the ibook store thingy…. What would be next? You can’t get a movie via netflix? It has to come via the itunes store???

    I think that Apple needs to take a look at what they’ve got… a HUGE audience of loyal buyers who, like with any other media, want what they want, when they want it, and from WHERE they want it. Apple would win so much more favor if they were to open up their restrictions a little and let us use their magnificent platform for whatever our heart desires.

    -d

  2. Curiosity63

    Hello Andy,
    quote: “Barnes and Noble even syncs the book across the platforms, so I pick up where I left off no matter what device I’m reading on. Having that flexibility should be what an open marketplace is all about – my content, purchased where I choose, and consumed on the device I choose.”

    You’re right in that quote! That is how it should be in an ideal world. ;)

    How ever restrictions are a major pet thing for Mr. Jobs. On any device of Apple there isn’t a flash movie possible because Mr. Jobs has got into a quarrel with Adobe and decided that his Apple products don’t need to show flash movies.
    About 90% of the internet uses flash to preserve copyright of pics and vids. :D

    Just another example of a CEO that on one hand has a vision and on the other hand lacks one and the consumer always pays for that in price and lack of content.

    Let’s hope that once Honeycomb has come out on Android tablets the consumer has more choice and chooses the tablets with the most promise and that won’t be Apple if they keep doing this kind of restriction of use of an iPhone or iPad. Mostly because Android tablets are less expensive then Apple ones and have more possibilities. Great deal if you ask me.

    Take care,
    nick

    • Avatar of Andy Martin
      Andy Martin

      I have high hopes for Honeycomb tablets. The primary users of our iPads are my kids (I get to use “mine” after they go to bed), and until I see the Android tablet UI get to the point where my kids can pick it up and instinctively know how to use it, I’m sticking with Apple. From what I’ve seen of the upcoming Honeycomb UI, that could be my jumping point to Android.

      I think Apple would argue, though, that they are not limiting the consumer’s choice. They would like to turn it around and say that it’s Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, that are choosing not to have their apps on their IOS devices (nevermind that it’s the greedy policy in place that could very well drive those alternate content providers away). Personally, I expect to see either a reversal of this stance by Apple or some backroom negotiations with Amazon to either keep the current model in place, or give them a better deal through the App store that they can live with (30% cut of all ebook sales is pretty ridiculous).

  3. Dale King

    I expect to purchase a tablet this year and have been looking at Android tablets, but was planning to see what iPad 2 would bring to the table. This definitely means I will not even consider iPad.

    It amazes me what people put up with Apple based on my experiences with my daughters’ iPod Touches. We were going on vacation and I loaded up music on one computer and then tried to put a movie on it from a different computer. Result my daughter had no music on her iPod for the trip because the idea of getting content from more than one computer isn’t approved of by Steve Jobs. Note none of the content had DRM. Why should it be deleted when connected to a different computer?

  4. Richard Clement

    This would be a very foolish move on Apple’s part. I have long been an Apple advocate and have lost count of how many Apple devices I have ‘sold’ to friends and colleagues.
    At the end of the day the device belongs to ME. I paid over AU$1000 for it and so I should get to decide what I use it for. I am prepared to live with the restrictions Apple place if they are there to ensure a smooth user experience – but that is a different ball game to stopping newspapers offering free versions to print subscribers unless Apple get a cut or kicking out Kindle etc etc.
    Frankly it would be like buying a Ford and then being told I can only fill it up at a Ford gas station, only buy CD’s for the car stereo from Ford stores…
    Surely there are huge anti-trust ramifications around this – especially given the market dominance of the iOS ecosystem?

    • Avatar of Andy Martin
      Andy Martin

      Agreed, I think there are certainly some questionable business practices in this move. With Apple’s response (just updated the post above with some more current information) it seems to be nothing more than a money-grab disguised as promoting a easier user experience. Granted, purchasing content directly through the app would be simpler, for sure, it’s not worth Apple’s 30% cut that Amazon would then have to eat. But, the stance from Apple is, either pay us that 30% cut, Amazon, or take your app out of the store and away from all those millions of customers that already use your Kindle app. Certainly sounds like an anti-trust suit waiting to happen, to me.

  5. Carl Shubitowski

    Apple isn’t the only game in town. Android tablets are abundant and getting better. I have an Droid Incredible phone and absolutely love it. It has the Kindle and the Nook apps on it and because of my experience with those apps, I am going to buy a Kindle (I was just waiting to get a job). If I end up in the future buying a pad device, it will be Android not Apple and I’m sure I will be able to read sync and purchase books through it.