“In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.”
That sentence is tucked four paragraphs into Apple’s press release announcing the formal launch of subscriptions for iOS.
Subscriptions are great, and I think Apple’s implementation (you keep 100% of revenue for subscriptions registered outside of the app, we take our 30% cut on subscriptions started within the app) is fair. What I think is far less fair, however—and what to me sticks out in the release—is the line that addresses separate, non-subscription content purchases.
“Publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.”
It’s the Kindle clause. Note that this change doesn’t kill the Kindle app. Apple is distinctly not banning the concept of selling content outside the App Store to use within apps, and thus Kindle (and other e-readers, and other apps) can keep doing it.
The key clause is the one I’ve bolded here:
“Publishers may no longer provide links in their apps which allow the customer to purchase content… outside of the app.”
In other words, Amazon can no longer provide a button that takes you to the Kindle Bookstore. In theory, as the rules are written in the press release—which is obviously not the guiding document for Apple/developer agreements, but still—Amazon could provide plain text that read: “To buy more books, go to amazon.com/kindlebookstore in the Safari browser.”
Many times, when Apple makes and enforces “controversial” decisions, there’s some customer-based justification. Apple reviews apps before they go into the App Store, and says that it does so to keep customers’ cell phones safe. Apple didn’t offer copy and paste on the iPhone initially because it couldn’t find the way to do it right, and didn’t want to offer customers a kludgey solution. With many Apple moves that are unpopular with the Apple Punditry Crowd, the company can at least make the case that its decision is for the benefit of the customer.
Not this time.
Preventing e-book apps from providing easy, immediate access to their e-bookstores doesn’t help customers, it doesn’t help e-book sellers. It helps only Apple. If it’s easier to get books from within the iBooks app with its built-in iBookstore—a clear advantage for Apple—e-book devourers may make the switch.
I own Apple stock. I could cheer this move from a business perspective. But it seems like a vindictive rule enforcement change, and not a necessary one. Are Apple’s profits hurting? Will this change really provide measurable benefit to Apple’s profitability?
Amazon and other e-book retailers really can’t sell their books as in-app purchases; the profit margins just wouldn’t work. Generally speaking, e-book sellers keep about 30% of the purchase price of your e-books. If they need to start giving Apple the in-app purchase 30% cut, that obviously causes issues.
Thus, it seems that Apple has needlessly handicapped iOS apps with content stores that eschew the App Store model, in a move that is openly hostile to both those apps’ developers, and the customers who use them.