Friday, February 18, 2011

Google subscription terms vs Apple's / Kindle for Android's subscription access

The New York Times's
Claire Cain Miller reports on Google's announcement of their own periodical subscription offerings via its Google One Pass system.

  Timed to contrast it against Apple's set of rules detailed in a much discussed press release Tuesday about Subscription-content apps for Apple devices, it offered the following:
' Publishers have control over how users can pay to access content and set their own prices. They can sell subscriptions of any length with auto-renewal, day passes (or other durations), individual articles or multiple-issue packages. Google One Pass also enables metered models '
There is a link on that page to their FAQ, which promises that, unlike conditions of Apple subscription apps:

  "Publishers decide the price and terms of the content they choose to sell through Google One Pass."

  Also, "Google One Pass will enable users to access content on connected, browser-enabled devices and from mobile apps where the mobile OS terms permit publishers to access the web via the app for Google One Pass transaction or authentication services."

In other words, this describes a WEB-subscription, which some columns yesterday said is more similar to a newspaper with a paywall.  As the New York Times reports:
' When publishers use One Pass, which for now is limited to online newspapers and magazines, Google will keep 10 percent of the sale price and share the customer’s name, ZIP code and e-mail address unless the customer specifically asks Google not to. '

That sharing of customer information is important to publishers.  Apple will share it with publishers only if the Apple customer permits it.

More from the NYTimes article.
' Unlike Apple’s service, Google’s is aimed more for use on Web sites than in apps, making it similar to services like Journalism Online’s Press+, which offers log-in and payments technology to online publishers.  Ms. Hornung said publishers could use One Pass in an app only if the mobile operating system’s guidelines allowed it.
  ' But Mr. McQuivey of Forrester said One Pass would be of little use to Web publishers until Android is built into many more phones, tablets and other devices, like televisions. “No publisher in their right mind would sign up to give away 10 percent of Web-based revenues,” he said.

On the other hand, if a publisher offers access to subscriptions through an Android app:
' Publishers selling content within an app running on the Android operating system, for instance, would have to comply with Android’s revenue split, under which Google gets a 30 percent share.
  However, unlike Apple, Google allows publishers to avoid selling within the app and instead to send customers to a mobile Web browser to make a purchase. '
So, that's key.

Since December 20, this Amazon app for Android includes over 100+ Kindle subscriptions readable on your Android device.

NOTE that Amazon does NOT include the Subscription-content feature in its apps for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.  We now have an idea why they don't.
  The Apple devices have usually been the first app to get such updates, but subscription-content was never made available on the Apple ones.

  Apple may have communicated to Amazon earlier its plans for subscription-content apps.

  In the meantime, Amazon just had its Kindle for Apple devices updated last week for real page numbers, and a few other features.  The update was approved by Apple, though they can decline to approve any updates, and the Kindle app retains the link to the Amazon site for purchasing e-books.
  We'll know more details about precise plans for e-reader apps on Apple devices before July 1.

I won't go into it here, at this point, as these are "inquiries" and may not develop into formal investigations.   But for those interested in reading articles on that, here are the two main newspaper articles on that from the last day (Kindle-edition blog links now work):

  NYT: IPad Service Draws Scrutiny
  WSJ: Regulators Eye Apple Anew
          Enforcers Interested in Whether Digital-Subscription Rules Stifle Competition

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

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  1. You omit one crucial detail. Providers are not obliged to use the Google market, it's possible to instal anything you want onto an android phone. This is not the case with Apple who control what may or may not be installed.

  2. Staffordshire man,
    You are quick. I actually just took it for granted that those using Android devices knew that you're not limited to Google market...

    Some find it a drawback as there can be badly programmed apps and possibly malicious ones, but I prefer to choose for myself, as we do on our computers.

    Apple's control is total - they can even remove an app at any time for their own reasons.

    I actually have little doubt that Android will take a huge chunk out of Apple's tablet market in relatively short time, especially because of Apple's over-control, the freedom of app choice on Android, and Apple's policies. i've never bought the iPad because so many features I consider basic and available (and then some) on my 10" Netbook are not on the Netbook.

  3. Here's my take in two parts.

    Part 1:

    I suspect the real legal debate won't hinge on market share and anti-trust laws, which can get messy and often ends up inconclusive. Anti-trust disputes usually end up enriching lawyers. No, the real debate is a public policy issue. Is the public interest best served by putting some or all cell phone companies and those who make digital devices such as Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle under the digital equivalent of the common carrier laws that apply to the shipping industry? For the full details, check out the "common carrier" entry in Wikipedia.

    Here is how it works in practice. When you want to ship a package, you don't have to worry about whether the shipping firm you want to use allows you to ship through them or whether they will apply a 30% surcharge simply because you compete with a firm that the shipping company owns. The 30% surcharge is the package equivalent of what Apple wants to do with ebooks. FedEx and UPS can't access such surcharges.

    No, subject to safety regulations and weight limitations, a common carrier has to transport any package the public brings in and to do so at certain fixed rates. They can't charge one company one rate and another company a different rate. They particularly can't do so to restrict competition.

    The same is true for forms of communication that involve data rather than physical objects. Your landline telephone company can't block or impose surcharges on a call you might make to a cellular company under the assumption that you might be transferring your service to them. A common carrier has a public responsibility, enforced by law, to carry everyone's packages or data without discrimination or prejudice.

    What the Kindle does and what Apple wants the iPad to begin to do is discriminate between data in ways that a public carrier cannot. Apple wants mobi ebook data intended for the Kindle app to be subject to a 30% of the retail price surcharge over that same book's data, encoded as epub and intended for their own iBooks apt. They're doing precisely what a common carrier cannot do.

    Keep in mind that the law doesn't force every transporter of goods or data to be a public carrier. In part, the distinction lies in the public interest. Some private carriers (called contract carriers) are acceptable as long as the public also has access to common carriers, otherwise there would be no way goods could move freely about the country. Apple could argue that Google and the Droid OS are providing the common carrier OS, so they can be as restrictive as they like.

  4. Michael,
    The day you wrote this, I was waiting for Part II, but I guess you were able to fit it all into Part 1. Interesting analogy.

    Re the following:
    ----"Apple wants mobi ebook data intended for the Kindle app to be subject to a 30% of the retail price surcharge over that same book's data, encoded as epub and intended for their own iBooks apt. They're doing precisely what a common carrier cannot do."

    I think the mobi book stays a mobi (Kindle format) book. People buy the books for their Kindles so they have to be in Kindle format. I think the transaction is taken care of by Apple, but Amazon should deliver the ebooks as usually for the Kindles.

    Apple would take its 30% (if they actually do try to take 30%, or 100% of Amazon's cut), and give Amazon the rest (so that Amazon can pay the publisher 100% of that remaining 70% that Amazon gets from the sales transaction).

    I don't think there's any data conversion or even iBookstore involved as far as iBooks go. I wouldn't buy a Kindle book if it had to be converted from a DRM'd ePub to mobi first for me to read it on a Kindle.

    It seems Amazon would be lika a 3rd party seller, the way Amazon has 3rd party sellers, while Amazon takes care of the money transaction and takes their cut.

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding that part of your comment though ?


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