Remember back in February when Apple rejected Sony’s ebook app? I haven’t heard much about this recently. And after googling and reading for a few hours, I haven’t found any significant recent news.
Apple is still blocking Sony’s app. Sony has since threatened to pull their music from iTunes (that would include Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Bob Dylan, among others) and Sony appears to be moving toward options that will allow them to do that. Some have speculated that Sony’s app was rejected because they tried to offer their own in-app purchasing method (i.e. one that did not give Apple a cut and may have had other security issues), but I can’t confirm that as a fact, and from all I can find this seems to be false. I found one of the first blogs that first brought up this theory, and I think that blog post misunderstood the other two blogs that it linked to to back up this claim. For example, read the “Update” part of this blog (Sony’s rejected app sounds just like other ebook apps). And Apple’s own statements sound different:
“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.”
Apple isn’t talking about Sony offering their own in-app purchasing method. Apple is talking about wanting Sony to offer a way for people to buy Sony ebooks through the Sony ebook app, which would give Apple a 30% cut of those sales. Also known as $$$.
If this policy were applied to, say, Amazon, this could potentially make it impossible to access your kindle books through Apple apps, if Amazon doesn’t change its apps to allow for in-app purchases. Which, of course, Amazon wouldn’t want to do because that would mean paying Apple 30% on those sales and Apple already pays independent authors 70% in many, if not most, cases. The same could be said for Barnes and Noble/Nook, Kobo, etc., with slightly different royalty figures. But Apple hasn’t forced this issue yet, and they might not ever force the issue on any other company besides Sony.
Unless I’m missing something, Apple is preventing Sony from being able to do something that Apple continues to allow Amazon and B&N (and other companies) to do. That is, sell ebooks through an app for iPads and iPhones by taking customers to a web browser to make those purchases (without also having an in-app purchase option). Apple says it is going to start to enforce its written policy, thereby forcing apps to also offer the option to purchase ebooks through the actual apps, where Apple takes 30% of those transactions. But it hasn’t forced Amazon or Barnes and Noble or Kobo to do that yet.
For now, it looks like Apple has fired only on Sony, leaving Amazon and B&N to wonder if they’re going to be shot at next. But before you worry too much, I think there’s a good chance that Apple won’t fire the same cannons on Amazon and B&N, because that fight would get really ugly and it could also get Apple into some serious antitrust issues.
Let’s hope Apple doesn’t push the issue any further, because could mean more restricted access to ebooks for Apple customers and lower royalties for authors.
By the way, if you know anything else about what’s going on with this issue, please feel free to mention it in the comments. I feel like I have a decent grasp on what’s going on now, but it hasn’t been easy to sort out all the facts from the fiction. Speaking of which, I need to go write some fiction.
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