At the end of July Apple was set to enforce their rules on selling books and magazines from in-app purchases. The new policy stated that all in-application purchases must go through iTunes, because Apple gets a 30% cut of the sales there. As if wasn’t bad enough, Apple took it further to state that it would not allow the app to link to a website store and then totally overstepped the mark to state that there was not even allowed the mention that there was a store within the app.
One of the book stores, Kobo tried several times to update their app and it was continuously rejected until they fully complied with the requirements. Jim Dovey the IOS app developer lead for Kobo said:
The store was removed because Apple rejected any updates which included it, period. They also rejected any updates which stated that Apple required its removal, or indeed any mention of ‘compliance with App Store guidelines’. It was further rejected for the cardinal sin of allowing users to create a Kobo account within the app. Then it was rejected for providing a link to let users create an account outside the app. Then it was rejected for simply mentioning that it was possible to sign up, with no direction on where or how one could do that. Then it was rejected for making any mention of the Kobo website. Then for any mention of ‘our website’ at all, in any language. We additionally cannot make any assertions that Kobo provides content for sale, however obliquely.
What’s interesting is that it wasn’t the App Store review team that rejected Kobo’s attempts at getting their application update into the App Store – they actually approved each of these changes, only to have the approvals rescinded “from above”. What’s interesting about this is that Apple is specifically doing this to block competing content stores, further forcing people to use iTunes, and locking them into it even more. This is especially annoying for me in The Netherlands, since the iTunes Store is completely useless here – no movies, no television series (local or otherwise), barely any books, nothing. It’s a digital wasteland.
Despite the news that this was going to happen from tech journalists, those that were not in-the-know were very upset when the latest update to their app, as far as they were concerned, was broken as they could not get access to new books. Although the stores could have made more of an effort to notify their users that it was going to happen, the blame lies firmly in one companies court and thats you Apple.
Now Kobo has stated that they will be concentrating on developing on HTML5 from now on and will be leasing future releases of it’s e-reader there. They are hoping that by providing the user content this way they will be free to add more features without limitation.
Other books stores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble have been quiet about their response to all this until yesterday when with very little fanfare Amazon beat everyone to the punch and released its HTML5 Kindle Cloudreader, a web-based version of their Kindle eBook reader app. It allows you to read your books from the cloud or to download your books for offline reading thanks to the magic of HTML 5 (or a Chrome browser extension). I haven’t tried it myself yet but the feedback from others has been massively positive so far.
The app is officially supported under Chrome and Safari and this includes the iPad… In fact Amazon highlights that it is optimised for try iPad on their site. IPhones are not currently supported so those users still have to negotiate the strangled app process but I think that it will come along sooner rather than later.
One thing I have read and is worth noting is that the cloud versions (and obviously the downloaded version) of the Kindle books are still limited to a set number of devices. So if you have your books downloaded to your Kindle, iPad, iPhone, etc, you may be over the limit and will not be able to read them in the cloud.
It seems to me that one of two things is happening here:
1) Apple is only concerned about profit. If this is so the only people they are hurting with this are iOS users. If they are prepared to go to such lengths for it then wait and see if they cripple HTML5 support on mobile Safari just to further frustrate Kobo’s, Amazon’s and others’ experiences.
2) In the beginning of the iPhones existence there were no apps and none were encouraged. Then, Apples direction was to get people to develop web apps for accessing through Safari instead. It may well be that Apple now considers HTML5 mature enough to develop on and push people away from App development.