At the beginning of the year, Apple said it wanted 30% of everything sold through the iPad platform. You could sell almost anything – books, downloadable content, magazines, pictures of kittens – but, according to their subscription rules, everything had to go through Apple itself and you could not, in short, go out to a web page to complete the transaction. That promise – to shut down external web stores on the iPad – has been fulfilled and the Nook, Kindle, Kobo, and Google Books apps have just been either drastically changed or removed from the App Store entirely.
Nook, Kindle, and Kobo now have no access to the web-based bookstore and you can no longer create accounts in the app. Only users with current accounts and books on file in the various stores can read them and book purchasing. For example, as of today, users of the Nook Kids app are no longer able to access the Barnes & Noble web store while Kobo users cannot create accounts or buy books from the app.
You’ll also notice that the Google Books app is now missing from the iTunes store, presumably for either a full overhaul or (and I doubt this) out of spite.
I’m of two minds when it comes to moves like these in the App world. On the one hand, magazines like The Daily (remember them?) and, more pertinently, the New Yorker prove that inside app sales and subscriptions works quite adequately and allows everyone – from the content providers to the “carrier,” in this case Apple, to maintain a revenue stream necessary for the continuation of our cultural heritage.
But here’s where things get a little rough: Apple is basically saying that it’s our way or the highway and those who don’t like it can drop off of iOS entirely or rededicate their efforts to HTML5-based readers that may or may not be superior to app-based systems. Again, this is Apple’s device and Apple’s rules but the freedom-loving self-publisher in me says “Hey, Amazon already takes their cut, why do I have to risk them taking a bigger cut because of this goofiness? And why do I have to settle for a potentially sub-par reading experience because Apple wants 30 cents out of my buck?”
As someone who despises the current publishing industry, I’m glad Apple’s cracking down on folks who have had it too good for too long. However, I worry that the author and the reader and not the publisher will be the ones to pay in the end.