The status of the iOS Kindle App has been in question for a while now, after Apple’s announcement that they were going to begin enforcing some highly restrictive app store regulations. eBook retailers would have been forced to offer all products that could be accessed through their app as a purchase through the same app and at the same price that these eBooks were sold elsewhere. Bad news for companies like Amazon that often only make 30% on a given eBook sale, since Apple gets 30% of everything sold through their app store. It was beginning to look like it would not be worth their time to continue maintaining an iOS presence. Fortunately for lovers of the Kindle for iOS, Apple had an incredibly small and clearly grudging change of heart.
It is all in the phrasing of the rules. The original cause for concern:
11.13 Apps can read or play approved content (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video) that is sold outside of the app, for which Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues, provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP [in-app purchase] at the same price or less than it is offered outside the app. This applies to both purchased content and subscriptions.
11.14 Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app.
Essentially, Amazon and the rest of the eReading crowd can continue to let users read their books and shop through the website so long as they don’t have a direct link away from the app to make sales. Sadly, this comes too late and does far too little for some app providers. A number of apps, including the popular iFlow eReader, felt compelled to shut down after Apple essentially destroyed the viability of their business. This was clearly supposed to be a way for Apple to take all of the customers who came to their devices at least in part for their eReader usability and cut them off from their providers of choice, thereby increasing the user base of the less than successful iBooks store.
If it had come a year ago, I think it might even have managed to go through. Right now, though, we have Kindles and Nooks that are affordable enough to supplement an iPhone or iPad. Google’s Android is taking off and tablet choices are increasingly plentiful. Most importantly, people are becoming more aware of the restrictive nature of Apple’s business practices. They would have lost customers over the move. It isn’t a big change in the rules, and it still gets in the way, but at least it shows that Apple can’t completely disregard the opinions and demands of their customers and developers without backlash.