Apple Issues Kindle an Ultimatum

Since pretty much the start of the Kindle platform, it’s been all about the availability.  Sure, you can get yourself a physical Kindle and it’s amazing, but part of the convenience is knowing that whether you’re at work and have a free moment at the PC or on the subway with nothing but your iPhone, you can pull up your book and pick up right where you left off.  It’s always nicer to read on your Kindle, but the apps are what makes the eBook stand out for many people as a worthwhile purchase.

Unfortunately, and whether that is unfortunate for Amazon or for iOS users remains to be seen, Apple has decided that eReading apps are far too popular for them not to take a cut if they can manage it.  Sony’s Reader app was just denied a place in the App store and others dealers, including Amazon, will have until March 31st to bring themselves into line with the newly enforced policy related to that denial.  Namely, users are no longer going to be allowed to view purchased material from outside sources unless that same material is available for purchase directly through the app that would be used to view it.  Which means, basically, that Apple is wanting a 30% cut of all eBook sales.

What happens next is still up in the air, but the ball is in Amazon’s court, so to speak.  It’s possible that we could see them do nothing.  Judging entirely by the few iPad users I know, many would be outraged by the removal of the Kindle app and bought it for very little besides its capability as a reading device.  Frankly, I gather that iBooks has proven disappointing.

It’s also entirely possible that Amazon could cave in and put a convenient purchase option in their Apps, with a markup for the convenience.  I don’t know how that would square exactly with the Apple rules in the long run, but at least there would be some way to buy besides the Amazon website’s Kindle Store.  Maybe some people would even use it, not knowing better or because it’s quicker than flipping over to a web browser.

The one thing I absolutely cannot see happening is Amazon just letting Apple take a 30% cut out of existing purchase prices.  One of their biggest pushes in the last year has been to attract new authors interested in publishing cheap eBooks directly through the site.  The big push is the 70% royalty option, of course.  Does anybody really believe that Amazon is willing to give up their cut in its entirety?  Or that the attraction for authors would be nearly as great if they knew that they would only be getting 49% instead of their supposed 70% on any iOS purchase(($1 *.7)*.7=$0.49)?  I don’t. Read how to open KEY file.

When you sum all this up, it seems like the only people that Apple can hope to hurt with this move will be their own customers.  I get that they feel like they deserve money since it’s their device being used, but it’s a bit late to start pulling that.  Call having the app a value adding opportunity for your hardware sales and leave it at that.  The Kindle vs iPad comparisons and debates are only fun when they both do the same job still!

18 thoughts on “Apple Issues Kindle an Ultimatum”

  1. I don’t think Apple have a problem with the Kindle app. The reason that Apple removed the Sony app that it allows content to be purchased from within the app, which is a clear violation of Apple’s application guidelines (whether those rules are reasonable or not is another topic). The Kindle app doesn’t allow content to be purchased from within the app – at the point of purchase it redirects you to the web browser – and therefore doesn’t violate Apple’s rules, so there shouldn’t be a problem.

  2. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”

    But luckily I can still feel smug about passing up the iPad a few months ago. I would be so pissed right now I if had gotten it and then Apple pulled this stunt.

    Stand firm Amazon. Make Apple pull your app and let them try to explain why you’ve been bent over (again) so Apple can make more money.

    One thing I can’t see Apple allowing is Amazon charging two different prices for in-app vs. out-of-app book purchases. Apple will slam the door on that loophole a few minutes after anyone tries it.

  3. “I get that they feel like they deserve money since it’s their device being used, but it’s a bit late to start pulling that.”

    But it’s not their device. It’s the customer’s device. The customer paid for it. When Apple starts loaning out ipads free of charge, then they can dictate what the customer may do with it.

  4. I have both a Kindle and an iPad and enjoy both of them. In fact, it was reading books in the Kindle app on my iPad that convinced me to buy a dedicated Kindle.

    My only concern with all of this “controversy” is that if Amazon were forced to pay a a 30% cut to Apple (which is not only Apple’s standard fee for in-app purchases, but also coincidentally the approximate amount Amazon makes on each Kindle title sold), it would, in the end, result in higher prices for everyone–regardless of how the title is bought. I mean if Apple eats into Amazon’s bottom line, it would seem to me that Amazon is going to have to make up for that lost revenue somehow.

    Meanwhile though, we simply don’t know where anyone except Sony stands. Everything else is speculation at this point. In fact, that’s why I believe your headline “Apple Issues Kindle an Ultimatum” to be misleading. I came here because I thought there was new information, but really there is not. We haven’t heard from Apple about Amazon’s status and we haven’t heard from Amazon either. If there’s an ultimatum that’s been issued, we know nothing about it yet. All we know is that the Sony app was rejected. There’s lots of speculation as to why it was rejected, but we don’t really even know the specifics about that.

  5. i can tell you that i would purchase books using my laptop before i give apple any MORE money. i love the iPad and plan on purchasing one. but i do use it a lot for e-reading and my favorite e-reading app is kindle for iPad.

    but i WON’T allow apple to dictate how i buy my non-apple stuff. it’s ridiculous. i will simply exit out of the kindle app, go directly to amazon, purchase my e-book from the kindle store and enjoy it even more with the smugness of knowing that apple didn’t get an extra buck from me.

    selling millions of iPads and iPhones and iPods isn’t enough? apple is lauded with praise (rightfully so) for the innovative technology they’ve brought to the masses. it inspires others.

    but remember, pigs get fat. hogs get slaughtered.

  6. Matthew, what’s the source of the ultimatum story? Although I’ve read most of the stuff about the Sony app, I haven’t seen anything concrete from Apple in the form of an ultimatum. If it’s true, it’s a scoop – congratulations. As I said in a post yesterday, no one knows what percentage of Kindle sales are down to the iOS platform. Amazon will never tell us, but I suspect it is a very substantial proportion. If this is so, the plot thickens since Amazon probably can’t afford to walk away from iOS. Equally, I’m not sure Apple can afford to alienate Amazon because I feel sure their own iBookStore has been something of a flop. If Apple want people to read on their iPads and iPhones they probably need Amazon. Sony is a sideshow because they’ve consistently missed boats all along the way; but Apple has to be seen to be treating everyone equally. This has the makings of a big story.

  7. I think Tom D’Roza is right – Apple probably will not have a problem with the Kindle app. The developer docs are pretty straight forward about in-app purchases. They need to be handled through Apple’s own mechanism or they need to be handled outside the app. Kindle purchases happen in a webview – so they’re ok. Sony was probably just trying to implement in-app purchasing in a way that violates the guidelines.

  8. I see one foreable answer. Amazon to produce their own tablet with kindle features and benefits in colour,possible e ink colour android based. Half the cost of the iPad. Then the message will be for iPad customers come on down,the price is right. Amazon will dominate. Apple have shown that they are greedy, when it comes to product and now application.

  9. When are consumers going to wake up and realize Apple is no longer cool, but an over priced inferior brand.

    1. The iMac LCD debacle.
    2. The iPhone antenna controversy.
    3. Their bullying Adobe and outlawing Flash, even though it is still a viable technology.
    4. App Store Greedy Policy changes which limits consumer’s choice and changed after consumers bought their product.

    Each year their quality and policies get worse and worse.

  10. Let them remove the Amazon Kindle app from the store for failing to be bullied into something as stupid and greedy as this.

    Once Amazon removes Ios from it’s list of supported devices it’s Apple who suffers. When people are looking into purchasing an Ebook reader that’s more than JUST an ebook reader – they can look elsewhere. Android looks pretty nice anyway (and doesn’t have the ridiculous rules that Apple tries to enforce).

  11. Having worked in a law firm which dealt with the trademarking of the Apple brand and having seen the ruthless way they deal with anybody who vaguely infringes, or they think they do, the Apple trade mark, this does not suprise me in the least. I have an ipod but that is the only Apple bit of hardware that I have. I will buynothing else from them (actually the ipod was a present so I have a clear conscience about that as well).

  12. Apple, schmapple. All the cool kids in my playground have Android now, because Apple is like, a toffee apple (toffee is for sucking). Also, the kindle app for Android lets you purchase eBooks from Amazon: the functionality is there, right inside the app. Is this functionality something that the Apple version of the kindle app lacks? That seems odd.

    It seems like a good idea to charge 50% extra on purchases on Apples devices, but I don’t think that will deter the appleheads; premium pricing will only make the purchase more desirable.

  13. If the materials have already been purchased (say, thru web browsing, PC, or the Kindle device), can we still download it from the iPad’s Kindle app for free? If so, all Amazon has to do is just showing a pop-up warning that if the user want to continue with the in-app purchase, there will be a mark-up fee. Or just add that as an additional fee during check-out or something. I usually have the in-app purchase ability disabled anyway. I kinda regret buying an iPad now…

  14. There are a couple of things to consider that aren’t being talked about here yet.

    #1 – Apple has an in-app purchase limit of 3000 for third-party developers. Which means through the Apple in-app side, a Kindle app could only have 3000 items and not its whole catalog. This means that if they consumer were to find their way into this area (depending on the implementation) they would be confused as to why they can’t see the same as on the website. This would lead to different experiences per device, and could partiallynullify Amazon’s selection advantage at least in the short term — well if this is enforced anyway.

    #2 – As a developer, there’s no automated way to update your in-app purchase catalog which means as new books come online Amazon would have to manage that manually.

    I really think this is all about protecting iTunes as the go-to digital catalog in Apple’s ecosystem. It’s an important part of their consumer experience.

  15. can someone explain this to me. in my iphone kindle app I buy the books through the kindle store…by being directed to the kindle store’s website. so essentially, does this mean apple will prevent books from being read on the kindle app unless amazon setups up an in-app store in which they get a 30% cut?

    if apple does this (even if they change their mind and reverse course after implementation and inevitable backlash), I will never buy an iphone again just out of principle.

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