Can Amazon Sidestep Apple’s App Store Tax?
Given the prominence of the Kindle vs Apple situation in news lately, namely that Apple has decided that all purchases going through their devices via the app store must pay a 30% fee, there’s been some question of whether or not Amazon’s Kindle platform will have much of a future on iOS devices going forward. Nobody can see Amazon giving up what we all assume to be a significant, even if not a majority, portion of their user base in order to avoid complying with the new terms, but at the same time it seems unlikely that paying the fee on ebooks that must already be selling for very near cost is an option either. Quite the dilemma.
It occurred to me however, and I’m sure I’m not the only one or even the first, that the solution is already in the works on Amazon’s side. Around the time of the launch announcement for Google’s eBook store, we had news that the Kindle for the Web service was being expanded into something more than just a means for previewing books pre-purchase. Not much has been heard since then. Now, while it is true that Apple can probably manage to enforce a competition reducing policy on their own devices using their app store, in spite of what any rumors about anti-trust investigations might be saying, it is unlikely that they would be audacious enough to start blocking access to Amazon.com on their browsers or those browsers that might be available to users in an app store at any given time.
At last report, the existing Kindle for the Web books read pretty well on the iPad and need only slight tweaks for the iPhone. I do doubt that this was some sort of master plan anticipating the current situation. Maybe I’m underestimating Amazon’s foresight. Maybe I’m overestimating Apple’s deviousness. Whatever the case may be, this seems like a great time to be rolling out a platform independent reading app that just happens to be laying around waiting to be used.
Really, this may well be the way things go in terms of non-dedicated eReaders in the future. I don’t know how I feel about that. While it will ensure that no matter what you happen to be holding in your hand at any given time, I can’t imagine that a browser-based solution will bring quite the same immersive reading experience that things like the existing Kindle app manage to provide. Tablets, and PCs in general, are already at something of a disadvantage compared to the Kindle thanks to the screen differences. Still, one would have to expect that the ability to avoid app store disputes like this one, added to the already impressive potential ability to run on anything connected to the internet, will make it worth further emphasis for Amazon. I’m hoping that it doesn’t cause them to give up on their device-specific app line, though. It adds a certain something that gives the Kindle platform an edge over all the rest for many people, even when the comparison doesn’t involve an eReader.