To buy a Kindle or Nook eBook for your iOS device, you can’t use an in-app bookstore. Instead, you have to go to Amazon’s website to buy your book. The same holds true for virtually every other iOS e-book reader. Yesterday, however, Apple rejected Sony’s e-reader app for the iPhone, arguing that apps that offer users to buy content outside of the app also have to make their virtual goods available through in-app purchases (read: purchases that allow Apple to take its 30% cut).
This is a very odd development – though, as Harry McCracken and John Paczkowski note – for the most part, it’s fully within the realm of Apple’s existing developer guidelines. Apple, however, never enforced these rules. Here is the statement Paczkowski received from Apple:
We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines. 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.
The actual rules, however, say nothing about the need to offer the same content for in-app purchases that’s available outside the app.
11.2 Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected
11.3 Apps using IAP to purchase physical goods or goods and services used outside of the application will be rejected
Based on this, it would also be hard for companies like Amazon, Google and B&N to let you buy books inside an app and then read the book on your Kindle, too. Assuming Apple follows through with the rules it outlined in its statement, we can expect some major changes in the way e-book vendors go about their business on the iOS platform. Also, giving Apple a 30% cut of all their e-book sales could potentially drive quite a few vendors away from the iOS platform as it would be almost impossible to make money from their books after Apple gets its cut.
This could have consequences for Apple itself as well, though. As Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey told the L.A. Times, he “wouldn’t be surprised if phones were ringing at the FTC today about this.”
As of now, all of the current eBook apps are still available in the app store and none of the other vendors have received any notice from Apple about a change in its policies yet. It could just be that Apple didn’t do a good job at communicating the reasons why it rejected Sony’s app and the reasons for rejecting the app aren’t quite as drastic as it currently looks. It could also be, however, that Apple has simply gotten greedy and want to drive its users to the iBookstore instead of its competitors…