Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why Kindle books will be readable & sync'd on Apple devices no matter what

What Apple has actually said about One-Off E-Bookreader apps so far and what it has said about Subscription-Content apps

What we've read, for the most part, is what an online news-site paraphrased from whatever Apple said and then interpreted in an extended way as fact, which was repeated by other sites by the hundreds (although ultimately they could still be right if Apple does prove quite that self-destructive and actually tries to apply their 70/30% rule to ebookstore non-subscription, one-off book-sale apps).

We've had quite an uproar since the Apple press release about Subscription-Content Apps on February 15.
  In the meantime, many of the quotations we've seen on the general rules of Apple were put into place in November 2010 and are accessible to App developers only, as guidelines for their apps.

However, 3 months after those newly edited guidelines were released, there was a "clarification" given by an Apple media rep about the reason for Sony's eBook-Reader app being rejected -- it was given in response to media questions:

In response to the Sony rejection on its e-reader app, Trudy Muller said, on February 1:
' "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." '

  [That means an alternative option to purchase via Apple rather than just accepting an in-app option to leave the app to buy at the bookseller's store.  Again, this quote is for an e-reader app, not a subscription one.]

  While that is the only Apple quote about one-off e-bookreader apps, so far, we're waiting for the other shoe to stomp.  Until then, the one-off, non-subscription e-book shoe is up in the air.

QUOTE FROM STEVE JOBS in that February 15 press release, the entire focus of which was on Subscription-content apps whether by publishers or subscription-content providers in general (the bracketed comments are mine]:
' Apple® today announced a new subscription service available to all publishers of content-based apps on the App Store℠, including magazines, newspapers, video, music, etc. This is the same innovative digital subscription billing service that Apple recently launched with News Corp.’s “The Daily” app... [subscription-based, of course]
“Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.

  “All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app.
[ This is a harsh rule to some, but original subscription-publishers still get 70% share of revenue with this subscription-app rule.  Subscription-content apps provided by an e-book store would be subject to the same split, which would make an e-book store's subscription-app wholly unfeasible because it would leave the online competitor bookstore nothing after its 30% share is given to Apple instead and the other 70% to the original subscription-publisher.

 It would certainly explain why Kindle for Android DOES offer newspaper and magazine subscriptions while Kindle for iPad does NOT.

  Add that the Kindle for iPad app for e-books update was approved by Apple mid-February and it currently offers an option to purchase Kindle books at Amazon via Safari and then brings the customer back to the Kindle app on the iPad.  Apple probably won't allow this scenario July 1, unless Amazon gives an option to do an in-app purchase via Apple, but Apple's app rules allow them to decline approval of any Update at any time and they approved this update.

  Many feel that if Apple insists on in-app Apple-purchases, Amazon could just no longer offer a link within the app to leave the app to purchase at Amazon via Safari, and the Kindle app would become a reading-app only but one which still allows the Kindle owner to sync the reading material with other Kindle devices.]
"We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers.” '

I'm not alone in noting that Apple's quotes apply, so far, only to subscription-content when quoting any 70-30% split or requirement that a subscription-publisher's website not be linked to at all within an app for Apple devices.
  See bottom FootNOTE for excerpts from Mashable and from The Telegraph.

ALSO, if Amazon and Apple agreed to a read-only Kindle-for-Apple-devices app, with no purchasing offered at all, in the app, this would be one solution.

In the Kindleworld blog article on the coming Kindle for Web, it was noted that this web-app will make Kindle books readable IN FULL on web browsers and will support Chrome OS devices, including the new Chrome OS Notebook, as well as the Chrome browser and other web browsers."  Also, Amazon's web app description states that anywhere we have a web browser, we'll see that our Kindle reading library, last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights are always available no matter where we bought the Kindle books or how we choose to read them.

  For this reason and because Kindle books and the ability to buy them via a web-browser will be accessible on Android tablets, it will be Apple's loss if Apple execs decide to discourage Kindle or other ebook-reader apps for Apple devices.

 They would no longer be able to say that we can read any ebookreaders' books on Apple devices (except via a web browser, connected to the Net) and it will make Android and probably HP webOS devices much more attractive to avid e-book readers if people find they can't read Kindle (UK: K3), Nook, Sony, or Kobo books offline, directly on an Apple device anymore.

  The iPad would no longer be much of an offline-ereader at all when the iBook store has something like 35,000 contemporary e-books for sale vs Amazon's almost 800,000 contemporary e-books.

  Today, author Chuck Toporek noted:
' Amazon isn’t worried. They have a solution already in beta testing and it works just fine.  Instead of using the Kindle app, iOS users can just point Safari to Amazon’s site, buy the Kindle ebook, and read it right there in Safari.  No app required.

Again, Kindle for the Web is just a beta right now, so full text isn’t available at the moment. You can bet Amazon will make a big splash about this, though, once they have all the publishers lined up and ready to go. '

FootNOTE - Others who noted that Apple's quotes refer, so far, only to subscription apps:
' Here's The Telegraph (UK) on Subscription vs "One-Off"
Shane Richmond, Head of Technology for Telegraph Media Group, wrote:
' ...That has led to speculation about what this will mean for an app such as Amazon’s Kindle app, which provides a link to purchase from Amazon’s website.  It may be that Apple intends to force ebook retailers to offer ebooks for sale within their apps and take 30 per cent of thosee sale. That would force ebook retailers to raise their prices or lose money.  Maybe that’s what will happen.

  However, that’s not what Apple has announced today.  This is about subscription not sales of one-off products.  If you’re a publisher and you want to allow people to subscribe to your publication then you must offer the same subscription price within your app as you offer on your website and Apple will take 30 per cent of the in-app subscriptions. '

  And here's Mashable's:  Christina Warren drew attention to the fact that the focus of the February 15 announcement was on subscription apps.  Here is her take on that aspect:
' Earlier this month, the Sony Reader app for iOS was reportedly not accepted into the App Store because it violated some of Apple’s policies.  At the time, it was unclear if the cited policy violations would extend to other e-book applications like those from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Because Apple’s latest remarks concentrate on subscription content, it still isn’t clear to us if these new provisions also apply to other types of apps.  We don’t know if this means that applications — like Amazon’s Kindle app that sell purchases a la carte — must now remove links to outside web stores.
  The Kindle app for iOS received an update Monday and, for the record, the link to the Amazon Kindle website is still in the app. '

UPDATE - Also note that there apparently is, as written earlier, an awkward restriction with the In-App-Purchasing system in that it might handle no more than 3,000 or so items in a catalog for an app.  If true that's certainly an obstacle to in-app purchasing for an e-bookstore. [End of Update]

It's Apple's call if they want to make themselves irrelevant when it comes to the rather wildly surging e-book market.

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.
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  1. If you already have an apple device, all you have to do to keep it kindle friendly is be very careful about which kindle app to download.

    If you do not, jailbreak your new apple device and previous versions of the kindle app can easily be installed.

    I for one wont be giving up my ipad as a supplement to my kindle just because Steve jobs wants to buy another turtleneck.

    Apple would be suicidal to try this with ebooks, but that doesn't mean they wont try it. An anti-trust suit beckons.

  2. Anonymous,
    They just did a change to the iPhone 4 which prevents jailbreaking.

    Agree with your take! I don't think even they are that greedy as to be totally unrealistic. Butcha never know! And then for sure, an anti-trust suit.

  3. I am kind-of curious about one thing. Is this rule going to apply to the Mac App Store as well as the ipod/ipad app store? Currently, K4Mac is extremely highly ranked in the mac app store. At least on the Mac, you don't have to purchase through the app store, but I'm sure that Amazon gets some people getting the app who wouldn't've found it at Amazon.....

  4. Erin,
    I don't know, but K4Mac is an app on Apple, so it's likely they will try to do something.

  5. Post 1: This is certainly a mess. Most business direct their FUD-fear, uncertainty and doubt--tactics against competitors. Apple seems to be directing most of its FUD against developers on which they depend for clever, innovative apps. There are a few things to keep in mind.

    First, recall that Amazon Kindle for the Web isn't a viable workaround if Apple continues down its current path and kills the Kindle app like it has that from Sony. To read anything online, you'll need a live Internet connection. That's not always available and, even when it is, it's unlikely that Amazon could afford to pay for all that streaming cellular data when WiFi isn't close-by. Nor should we forget that online book reading will probably never be as good as a full-featured app.

    Second, not only was Sony's ebook reading app rejected under this confusing rule, so was one called Readability. It was a subscription service only in the loosest sense. It did what Instapaper does for free, but sent 70% of the modest subscription income (collected from a web page) to websites whose articles you read.

    Apple's move against Readability was so stupid, the most likely explanation is that Apple's now reaping the full fruits of its long obsession with secrecy. It has become a closed world, obsessed with control and unable to discuss internally events from any other perspective than its own.

    I'm sure some at Apple understood what blocking the Readability app meant and the furor that would result, but there was no way within Apple Corporate Speak to protest the move. The same is true of even broader movements within Apple that have outsiders worried. To speak against them is to go against Steve Jobs (now in poor health) and raises questions about one's loyalty to The Company. According to someone I know who once worked there, Disney has the same problem.

    Third, Apple has grown accustomed to equating success with total control. As humans, we have a tendency to repeat successful moves even when everyone around us can see that, in this new context, they've become foolish moves. In trying to control publishing on iDevices, Apple is trying to repeat its pass successes in a new and enlarged context and without the prior rationale.

    To get specific, Apple has always exercised more control over the hardware than was true in the PC world. But with the iPhone they began to extend that control to software. That's where the trouble began. Just like hardware control can prevent much of the bugginess in the PC world, making life hard for users, so some control of the software makes sense on an iPhone. We don't want our only means of communication shutting down because some game has trashed our iPhone.

    But Apple hasn't drawn the line at stability and security. It has blundered around trying to ban fart apps and anything that didn't fit with its artistic vision of what an iPhone should be doing. It has become insular, confusing what it thinks is best with what users want to do.

    With subscriptions, that obsession with control has moved from artistic vision (no fart apps) to monetary (the 30% slice). This time people are accusing Apple not of being silly but of being greedy, of wanting to take when they're done little or nothing to deserve it. A good case can be made that they are right.

  6. Post 2: Everything, it appears, now revolves around Apple's corporate profits. Publishing apps, we are told, can't sell without allowing Apple to interject itself in the process. Why publishing? Why can I spend thousands of dollars on jewelry bought via my iPhone without giving Apple a cut, but when there's a dollar a month subscription, Apple must get a chance for an almost one-third slice of the retail price even though it isn't doing anything but take my money. With Amazon, that inconsistency is particularly vivid, since only book purchases from Amazon are being targeted. Why? When we go to Amazon store, the buying process is identical.

    The reason is that Apple is selling books and getting into selling magazine subscriptions, but isn't selling tools or jewelry. In Apple Corporate Think, when Apple enters a market, everyone else must either exit or play by rules heavily loaded in favor of Apple (i.e. "give us 30% of retail.") Why? To anyone but the most rabid Apple fanboys, that makes no sense, particularly when Apple makes its agenda nakedly clear blocking an app. In Apple Corporate Think, that sort of reasoning makes perfect sense.

    Some think this opens Apple up for a federal anti-trust lawsuit. That's a possibility, but those sorts of disputes take years to resolve and hinge on ambiguous terms that could turn in one direction or another. An anti-trust dispute would enrich lawyers, but I'm not sure it would do much else.

    A better argument is that Apple has been engaging in false advertising. Much of Apple's iPhone/iPad advertising centers on all the exciting apps that run on their gadgets. Among the most popular of those, particularly on the iPad, is the Kindle app. Apple's moves to block apps like the Kindle, for reasons other than those of their customers, resembles a classic an illegal ploy called bait and switch. By not saying otherwise, even in the fine print of their ads, Apple is saying in effect, "Buy and iPad and read all sorts of books and magazines on it." That's what happens now and that's the bait. But when the switch comes, apparently in July, that will no longer be true. What you bought, encouraged by Apple ads, no longer exists. You've been switched, Apple hopes, to the iBookstore. Classic bait and switch almost always works like that. it moves from someone else's popular product to a move lucrative in-house product.

    Bait and switch is not only an easier to prove crime, the remedy will cure what ails Apple far better than an anti-trust settlement. Apple has advertised a platform open to apps from a multiple of sources. Apple will have to continue to offer a platform open to those sources. In particular, it can't cut off what is already available.

    Forcing Apple to behave also makes more sense than crippling apps or moving them to the web and conceding most of the benefits of the platform to Apple. Unlike Amazon with their Kindle hardware, Apple's has loudly advertised an open platform. We can legally bind them to that offer, benefiting no also ourselves but Apple itself in the long run.

  7. Mike,
    That's an excellent point re the web-access costing Amazon $ when through 3G.

    Since their servers will be accessed for this, I wonder if there's a way they can detect if your wireless access is through 3G and then can give messages saying you can't access the web edition via 3G (the way we can't download PDFs via 3G but I don't know if we can download PDFs via WiFi.

    Will be away from contact today...

  8. The moment companies start circumventing the new Apple rules by offering web-only access, Apple will change the rules to demand a cut in the revenue from those websites as well, and change the iOS to send all website access through their proxies which will block any site that doesn't pay up.

  9. Anonymous,
    I saw a column last night that I will include in tonight's - very similar idea! Not far from the truth if they could do it!


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