Is Apple about to kick out Kindle App and Nook App?

The Kindle has had a strong ally in the Kindle iPad/iPhone reading app.

In fact, some estimates and surveys claim that 40% of books bought for the iPad are through the Kindle for iPad app.

Well, Apple might be getting tired of that.

Sony’s iPhone eBook App gets rejected

Courtesy Peter Craine at the official Kindle forum we find out that Sony’s iPhone app just got rejected -

Tuesday’s New York Times reports, “The company [Apple] has told some applications developers, including Sony, that they can no longer sell content, like e-books, within their apps, or let customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store.

“Apple rejected Sony’s iPhone application, which would have let people buy and read e-books bought from the Sony Reader Store…

Wow. That’s a really big move by Apple.

Details on Apple’s new Rules

The New York Times has the details on Apple’s new approach to eBook Apps.

  1. It seems that ebooks bought outside the app store will not be allowed into apps. 
  2. Sony’s iPhone App has definitely been rejected.
  3. Apple has said that all in-app purchases will have to go through Apple.
  4. NY Times points out that Amazon might get affected.
  5. Analysts think this shift suggests Apple wants to make more money from its platform.

    “This sudden shift perhaps tells you something about Apple’s understanding of the value of its platform,” said James L. McQuivey, a consumer electronics analyst at Forrester Research.

    “Apple started making money with devices. Maybe the new thing that everyone recognizes is the unit of economic value is the platform, not the device.”

This is nothing short of a disaster for Amazon and B&N. Both are seeing very healthy ebook sales through their reading apps. A large portion of that is sales through iPhones and iPads. If those disappear, or begin to get taxed, it would be really tough for B&N and Amazon to profit from ebooks sold to iOwners.

Why would Apple do this now?

Three possibilities spring to mind -

  1. Apple was only allowing these ebook reading apps to sell iPads. Now it feels iPad is powerful enough to stand on its own. 
  2. Apple is getting serious about iBooks and wants to turn it into a solid revenue stream. It probably feels that iBooks can’t take off until Kindle and Nook apps are handicapped.
  3. Apple really does intend for iPad 2 to be more of an eReader/Reading Tablet. It wants to make sure that reading apps from other companies can’t piggyback on iPad 2.

Whatever the reason for Apple’s new stance, it’s a rude awakening for Amazon and B&N. A painful lesson that if you don’t control the device, you can get kicked out at a moment’s notice.

What could Amazon and B&N do?

Perhaps they could offer Apple a 10% cut. Perhaps they could put more energy into Reading Tablets – B&N is already doing this with Nook Color. Perhaps they could stir up readers, and get them to protest – though that is unlikely to work.

There’s not very much Amazon or B&N can do. They are at the mercy of Apple.

If Apple really does force Kindle and Nook Reading Apps to pay a toll, it’ll prove, once again, that there is no such thing as a free lunch. That you have to build your own direct channels to customers.

The Book Wars have well and truly begun.

15 Responses

  1. There is Kindle for the Web, too. Then Amazon is not entirely off the iPad. Perhaps the Kindle for the Web was designed with this possibility in mind.

  2. If all costumers were like me, this move would give Android a huge advantage over iOS. If they made (or are going to make) this decision, they probably did some market research, but I am wondering how many people bought the iPad because of the possibility of reading Kindle and B&N books on it?
    I thought they were many, but this blog is the only one I read regularly so I might be very biased ;)

    Anyway, I am a bit worried. I really enjoy reading on the iPhone on my commutes. Probably I’ll be able to continue to do so (I don’t think they will remove the app from the devices, only from the App Store), but this means no more upgrades, no more additional features.

    This is probably the first time I am really disappointed by Apple; this decision feels “backward”. Usually they simply don’t put some features from the start (like tethering or multitasking) and then they add them. This time I think they are making a mistake.

    • It’s not a given they’ll kick out the Kindle App. Perhaps Sony did something to upset them.

      • Many users in other blogs point out that the most likely explanation is that Sony allowed for in-app purchases, while Kindle redirects to a webpage.
        I hope these users are right, even though the NYT articles states explicitly that Apple wants to stop “[allowing] customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store.”

      • Yes, perhaps that’s what it is. It’s strange that NY Times would start a panic without checking exactly what it was that got Sony kicked out.

      • I’m pretty sure Marco has put his finger on it. Whew!

        I don’t think Apple would dare to kick the Kindle App out.

  3. I think that customer outrage will have more power than you think.

    And if Apple denies all in app purchases people will be pissed.

  4. I think this would be a disaster for Apple, not Amazon. Many people love using the Kindle app on their iPads and they would be furious. It would also be a huge marketing tool for Android tablets.

    Apple should be careful with this kind of thing. People are already flocking toward Android phones, with a sucky iBook store, lack of Kindle app, and price, they’d be flocking toward Android tablets too.

  5. It would be a shame if Apple did this.

    Wouldn’t a strict application of the “no access to content bought elsewhere” rule mean that Netflix and Hulu Plus would be gone as well? I buy my Kindle books for my Kindle and can access that content on my iPad as a “bonus.” I subscribe to Netflix for the discs, but can get the streaming content on my iPad as a “bonus.” These bonuses helped make the purchase of the iPad worthwhile. It would be very shortsighted of Apple to make their hardware less useful.

  6. One more reason for my iPad to get dustier. I like Apple innovation but not Apple arrogance. I was an early adopter of the iPhone & when it came time to replace it I got no special upgrade pricing despite having spent 3 years paying AT&T service costs – was treated like any new schmoe off the street…so I bought a Google Nexus One. Bought an iPad when it came out and then got pushed around trying to get setup for a developer account (I run a software development org). Irritated but kept using it. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab replaced the iPad in November and despite Steve Job’s assertion that it’s simply the wrong size (he believes the iPad is the only correct size) I’ve found it much more useful & carry it in my back pocket – something I didn’t do with the iPad. I have Nook, Kindle, and Kobo as my primary reader apps (I have a Nook device but don’t use it anymore – the Tab is the same form factor & a bit easier to use). I buy books everyday and am reading on my phone, PC or tablet all the time. Great way to spend time in a line or when the wife is trying on clothes while shopping :-)

  7. I strongly believe it’s the in-app purchasing for Sony’s app that got it kicked out. As much as i’ve grown lukewarm with Apple after they started the agency craptacular model, I believe that this whole thing may be much more innocent.

    Sony, by the way, would know very well why they were rejected but they also aren’t stupid… this is a great way for them to garner sympathy (and honestly, in the USA they need anything they can get in regards to EBR’s)… it couldbe a wonderful FUD opportunity for them to milk. It’s really hard to say.

  8. A little more info here.

    http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/02/apple-cut-of-e-book-sales/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+wiredbusinessblog+(Blog+-+Epicenter+(Business))

    Looks like Apple only allows in-app purchase, giving Apple 30% cut. So it is not that Apple is taking iBook more seriously, but it just wants more money from content provider. I wonder would the same “rule” applies to the Mac app store (even though it is possible to not use the app store to install Kindle, at least for now.)

    I think all this would mean lots of lawsuits being filed.

  9. iEmpire’s latest tv spots are highlighting ereader capabilities in a big way. The latest iPad ad is fully eReader focused and even the dual-carrier iPhone 4 ad features iBook front and center in the ad.

    Yes, Apple is going to take their ball and go home. Even if it means that the game is busted up leaving many unhappy participants with hotdogs midmouth, runners on base, batters midswing, and fans in mid-cheer.

    Incredible arrogance. Yep- Apple. How we love ‘em. :)

  10. Wall Street Journal, Feb 3, 2011:
    Apple to Tighten Control on Content
Excerpt: “Apple has indicated the sales outside of iTunes can continue, as long as sales through its store are provided as an option. “Rest assured that we want our customers to be able to get their publications easily both from our App Store and obviously from websites or other ways they get them,” …
    [torn between my Apple stock ownership and personal preference]

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704775604576120531458250932.html?mod=mostpop

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