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Apple, greed and the Amazon Kindle app

July 25, 2011

A while back I wrote a column explaining why I stopped reading ebooks on my iPad and started using a Kindle 3 instead. Well some time has passed and things have changed for the worse for Amazon and other companies on the iPad.

Apple has arrogantly tried to force companies like Amazon to cough up 30% of each sale if they want to sell ebooks directly via their iPad apps.

If an app user opts for Apple’s simple in-app payment system, Apple keeps 30% of the sale. If a user goes through the publisher’s website — a more complicated process — the publisher will keep 100% of the sale.

If this is applied across the board to companies like Netflix and Amazon, it could be a problem.

Right now, Amazon kicks users to its website where they buy a book. Amazon gets 100% of that sale. If it has to offer users the in-app payment option, then it risks losing 30% of the sale.

Amazon, wisely deciding not to pay the Apple ebook tax, has changed its iPad application.

Amazon has issued an update to its Kindle iOS app to conform to Apple’s rules on digital goods.

The app no longer includes a link sending users from the Kindle app to Amazon’s store in Safari. If a user wants to buy a Kindle book, the user has to go to Safari independently and then buy a book. The book would then be sent to the iOS device.

Amazon Kindle App Changes

Amazon Kindle App Changes

So you won’t find the convenient “Kindle Store” button when using any of Amazon’s iOS Kindle apps. Barnes and Noble has also apparently removed its “Shop” button from its app, so it’s not just Amazon that has gotten screwed by Apple.

Use the Old Version
If you’re already using the Amazon application then you might want to reconsider updating your app. That might let you continue to use the existing version of the Amazon Kindle app for iPad.

Of course eventually you’ll probably want to upgrade so this is a stopgap measure at best, and won’t serve you well over the long term if Amazon adds more desirable features to its iPad app. In the short term though you should be able to get by and still enjoy the convenience of a quick link to the Kindle store.

iBooks: Apple Already Makes Money from eBooks
The real travesty here is that Apple already has a profit stream from its own ebook app, iBooks. Any iOS user can easily buy ebooks by firing up the iBooks app and finding whatever book they want. They can also download free ebook samples from iBooks.

It’s not Amazon’s fault that iBooks has lagged behind in terms of book selection and that the iBooks store stinks for browsing. Those problems are Apple’s fault and it’s way past time for the company to deal with them. Apple has only itself to blame for iBooks inferior ebook shopping experience.

There’s also something really fishy going on when the same company that runs its own ebook store and applications is suddenly demanding 30% of the sales price from other ebook sellers.Talk about greedy! How much money is enough to satisfy Apple’s financial lust?

I can’t help but wonder if there will be litigation about this at some point or perhaps a government investigation into Apple’s business practices. It seems quite warranted in this case given Apple’s blatant conflict of interest in running its own ebook store and then trying to scoop up the profits of its competitors in such a blatant way.

Turning Away from the iPad?
The iPad is a great multi-purpose device but I suspect that this change may end up turning some ebook readers off to using it. The iPad’s primitive LCD screen was already bad enough for reading ebooks (compared to the Kindle’s excellent e-ink screen), but now the extra inconvenience of not being able to easily click a link to go buy a book from Amazon’s site might encourage more iPad users to simply buy a Kindle.

Or perhaps most people won’t care? That’s certainly a possibility, but I can’t help but feel that this move by Apple is going to generate ill will among some iPad users. It reeks of Apple’s legendary arrogance and hubris. Angering iPad users with heavy-handed app policies has already happened in the past and this is yet another example of it.

And let’s not forget that Amazon is reportedly coming out with its own tablet soon. Nor should we forget that there are already existing alternatives to the iPad based on Android. So disgruntled iPad users do have other options besides sticking with Apple’s product.

Will Apple care? Probably not given that the company is sitting on a cash hoard of more than 75 billion dollars. But let’s remember that leaders in one technology space can easily become second-class players as time goes by if customers become unhappy with their products.

The iParrots Defend Apple
Of course you know that there are people who will defend Apple to the death. These folks can kindly be called “iParrots” since they usually just parrot whatever line Apple is peddling to justify its actions. No matter what Apple does, it’s always right in the eyes of the iParrots. Steve Jobs is their deity and thus they will never call Apple on its bad behavior.

It’s probably best to simply tune out the iParrots when considering this issue. Let them continue to flock together, squawking the praises of Jobs and gobbling up whatever iSeeds Apple throws their way to keep them happy. The rest of us know that Apple’s greed and conflict of interest need to be criticized directly in order for there to be change inside of the company.

Final Thoughts
If you’re an iPad user that has been getting by with Amazon’s Kindle app, I’d say it’s time to consider actually buying a Kindle. Why put up with Apple’s foolishness and lame LCD screen? Why let Apple get away with inconveniencing your reading with such a transparently greedy ploy?

Reading should be easy, fun and especially comfortable on your eyes. You can get all of that by buying a Kindle and using your iPad or iPhone for other purposes. If you’re still not ready to get a Kindle 3, then sit tight. As I mentioned earlier, Amazon is apparently in the process of getting its own tablet ready and will also be updating the Kindle itself.

Or you could also opt for a Barnes and Noble Nook, an iRiver HD Reader or some other alternative to Apple’s products.
So if you’re an iPad ebook fanatic, it might be time for you to consider getting a new platform for your ebooks. Apple has proven itself more interested in adding to its cash hoard than it is in providing convenience for its customers. Is this the kind of company you want to support?

Nice move, Apple. Could you be more arrogant and greedy?

What’s your take on this? Is Apple right? Should iPad readers move to the Kindle? Tell me in the comments below.


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4 Responses to Apple, greed and the Amazon Kindle app

  1. henry dubb on November 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    What Amazon should have done is left it as it was but explicitly listed the Apple Tax for I -… users. Then customers could go to Apple to complain paying 30% more than other devices.

  2. Bill Julian on September 13, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    You are all over this one Jim. My family gave me an iPad, for which I thank them, and I quickly decided that the Kindle App was one very good reason to use it. Then came this mess.

    Needless to say Amazon has since done a work-around but in this battle of the Elephants ordinary consumers lose.

    No doubt about it there is a kindle or nook in my future.

  3. Jim on July 26, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Hi Gromit,

    You raise an interesting point. Amazon is supposedly coming out with a tablet in the near future. I do not know the details of what this tablet is going to be able to do, but I assume it can run apps in a way similar to the iPad.

    If that’s the case then I doubt there will be anything to stop Apple from releasing iBooks for the Amazon tablet. But will they? Do they have any interest in supporting other platforms with iBooks? To date I have not seen any indication that they want iBooks to be on multiple platforms. I hope I’m wrong on that though so please let me know if you’ve seen anything that indicates Apple will be supporting non-apple platforms with iBooks.

  4. Gromit on July 26, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Why can’t I read books bought from iBooks on my kindle?
    Why can’t I buy from iBooks on my Kindle?

    That goes against my right as a customer to buy from whoever I want and to read on the device of my choosing.

    IParrot No. 6,860

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