Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Kindle game: Flip It! and Apple iStore rejects Sony E-books App - UPDATE2

FLIP IT!, a new Kindle app.

Flip It!, a new Kindle game by 7 Dragons, was released yesterday.  Watch for more from them.  p See UPDATE below

It's a brainteaser of a puzzle that reminds me, actually, of how e-Ink works.

In the game, you're presented tiles that are either black or white.  Click on one to flip the color.
  Goal 1: Flip the tiles so that all of them display as white.

  As with other Kindle games, there are several levels of play and 7 Dragons's product description tells us that the puzzle seems simple in the beginning but gets more challenging as you go, exercising your mind as you "enjoy solving various patterns and puzzles."

  The twist:  "When clicking on a tile to 'flip' its color, all tiles touching the selected tile's four sides will also flip their colors."   As you move to the next level, you're given more squares and patterns.

  Goal 2:  Beat your earlier "times" or complete a puzzle with fewer moves and complete all levels with the fewest number of flips.

UPDATE - Feb 3, 2011 - 12:49 PM - Just received this info from Abhi of 7 Dragons: Hints:
  "If anyone gets stuck at a particular level they can go to http://kappreview.com/flip-it-hints/ for hints and walkthroughs.  And can leave comments for help if the walkthroughs don't solve their question."

The New York Times reports, in an article by Claire Cain Miller and Miguel Helft, that Apple has actually rejected Sony's iPhone app, which as the Kindle and Nook apps do, lets people read e-books bought from the e-reader company's store.

 The NYT report further says that Apple has told other application developers the same.
'...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 ... from now on, all in-app purchases would have to go through Apple, said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division. '
  Obviously, as the NYT points out, this could affect the Amazon Kindle app. Apple's Sony's Haber explained:
' "It’s the opposite of what we wanted to bring to the market,” Mr. Haber said. “We always wanted to bring the content to as many devices as possible, not one device to one store." '
Currently, if a company app has the customer purchasing e-books or other products within the Apple app itself, Apple gets 30% of the revenue, something Amazon and B&N would not be willing to do.  Instead, the apps are used to browse their stores and then the the apps are closed and customers' web browsers are opened so they can do the purchases, apart from the Apple application, at the company's own e-book store.

  It's been seen that the iBook store has only about 30,000 non-public domain books and 30,000 free public domain ones.   Amazon has over 810,000 titles, 16,000 of which are free public-domain books.  Barnes and Noble's total counts Google's 1.5 million free public domain books (which are easily convertible to Kindle format).  As a result, most iPad owners are reported, in studies, to be using the Kindle app to buy e-books at Amazon than are using the iPad's own iBook Store.

I don't see how not allowing Amazon's app will help sell iPad 2 when all the Android tablets being readied for release will let customers use ALL apps from online e-book stores (except Apple's of course, since Apple's will run only on its own products).

  But if Apple doesn't allow other e-bookstores onto its iPhone or other products, without a revenue kickback, but allows the Kindle and Nook apps to stay on their devices, won't the other online bookstores be able to pursue action against what they'd consider a form of business favoritism that's not justifiable if the rules are different for each online bookstore?

Miller and Helft point out Apple has made more money selling hardware than music, e-books or apps and that the current attraction of access to more content from more sources sells more Apple devices.

  They find the move surprising, as "Apple has indicated recently that it would be more collaborative, not less, with magazine publishers and other content producers that want more control over how to distribute content on the iPad."

  James L. McQuivey, a consumer electronics analyst at Forrester Research, is quoted on this: "...Maybe the new thing that everyone recognizes is the unit of economic value is the platform, not the device.”

So, Apple moves to an ever-more closed system?  I don't see this working with the myriad of Android devices coming to market.  The draw was the humongous number of apps available for the Apple devices.  But if the e-bookstores with the best access to e-books are shut out, how does that make the iPhone or iPad attractive as a non-dedicated e-reader in the now intense and fast-growing market for e-books?

Maybe, Apple will set a 5% or 10% take for themselves on other online-ebookstore purchases using their devices, and the online e-bookstores accepting this would have an advantage with the number of customers able to access their stores on the millions of iPhones and iPads.  But at 30% for Apple?  Not likely!  Or, it would eventually be another method by which Apple will help raise e-book prices.

UPDATE - February 1, 2011, at 12:22 PM (Orig'l posting at 11:30 AM)
MyKindleStuff posted an ArsTechnica article quoting Apple on its new policy toward other online e-bookstores and it doesn't look good.  In the article, headlined: "Apple responds: we want a cut of Amazon, Sony e-book sales," Jacqui Cheng reports that Apple replies:
' "We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines," Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller told Ars.  "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.
. . .
  Many feared that this supposed change in Apple policy would take their e-books away from their iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches.

  Apple's second statement indicates that this is indeed the case—sort of.  If an app lets users access content that they purchased via Amazon's website, for example, then that same app must also let users buy the same book via Apple's own in-app purchase system.  If the app developer doesn't want to use Apple's in-app purchases to sell content, then the app can't access content purchased elsewhere either.
. . .
' Amazon has already gone all-in with its "Buy Once, Read Everywhere" tagline, so it probably can't afford to back out of the iOS platform now.  The alternative appears to be a user interface nightmare: re-structuring its sales mechanisms in order to allow customers to buy from both Amazon and Apple (a move that will chafe Amazon execs) or from Apple alone (even more chafing).

  Apple is saying that other stores' e-books apps must "ALSO" allow its users to buy the same book via Apple's own in-app purchase system.

  However, Big5 publisher pricing, that Apple encouraged, would be the same at all online e-stores (also known as fixed-pricing), but Apple would get 30% of the purchase price when the e-book is bought via their devices.  This is a rule made after Apple had helped bring about non-competitive pricing that the other online e-bookstores must follow.

  Again, for a history of that see Apple/Big5 history.

 Loyal Apple customers would buy from the Apple store, of course, as it's easier to just buy it from within the app and the pricing would be the same.  I don't see that as acceptable to the other online book stores.  Ars Technica says Sony has tried to negotiate a "more equitable solution" but Apple's not moving.

  Upshot: Apple would be devaluing its own devices as non-dedicated readers at a time when Android devices are overtaking the Apple ones already.

  This may be a reason Apple has made this decision, though I don't see it as a real plus for them; it'll drive people from iOS *to* Android devices.

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  1. "Apple's Haber explained:" should be "Sony's Haber explained:"

  2. Athena,
    Thanks for reading and correcting! :-) Will change it.

  3. One other point: Apple doesn't (currently) share any user data when someone purchases in-app content. So it would be impossible for Amazon to know that you'd bought a book via in-app purchasing.

    This would totally break the "buy once, read anywhere" approach of Kindle - there would be no way for Amazon to tell that you'd bought the book on iPhone, and therefore should also get it on Kindle (or WinPhone, or Android, or whatever).

  4. Hi, Ian
    That's a very good point !

    The buyer would be Apple's customer.

  5. Apple thinks themselves king of the hill, impossible to touch let alone beat by anyone.
    So logically they feel that everyone will inevitably accept whatever they come up with, even if it hurts the business interests of those other companies.

    And as Steve Jobs said earlier "noone reads anyway", so blocking eBook apps is no problem as those aren't the target market for Apple (which is the young "kewl" kid who wants Apple gadgets as a status symbol most of all).

  6. I actually think that as owner of the display room, Apple is entitled to a small cut - something like 5% of the price of an e-book but since they don't provide user data at this point to the vendors, I don't see any more that they'd be charging for.

    It makes no sense that if each online store gets 30% and must accept the publishers' higher prices for books from the Big5 publishers, that Apple could even think of taking the entire 30% !

    And of course who'd buy from the iBook Store if Amazon or BN increased the price at that store to cover the 30% they'd need to pay Apple? Apple wouldn't be happy with that either.

    The 30% figure is from sales of apps and for sales of e-books. And maybe from in-app purchases normally, but it would make no sense to take 30% in the case of e-books, knowing Apple helped put together the current Agency plan pricing.


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