Apple confirms rule change over e-book apps

Apple has confirmed that it wants a cut of Amazon's Kindle sales made via its iPad and iPhone apps. The giant hardware company has said that it will no longer allow apps to sell content via a separate browser link, unless customers are also given the option of purchasing the same titles through an in-app mechanism, which carries a 30% surcharge.

The apparent confirmation follows a day of confusion after Sony said that Apple had rejected its digital-book app because it did not allow customers to purchase e-books within the Apple app environment. It was initially unclear whether this was an Apple rule change or a Sony error.

But Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple, told Bloomberg that it had altered some of its requirements: "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."

E-bookselling apps such as Amazon's Kindle app allow users to purchase content via a separate browser window that up to now has meant they did not have to pay Apple's 30% fee.

Some websites had claimed that there was in fact no change in Apple's requirements, but that Sony had been caught out after trying to make its in-app purchases available from outside of the Apple app environment.

But, as best we can tell, Apple now requires all apps to make purchases available from within the app store, a major headache for the likes of Amazon, Kobo, W H Smith, and Barnes & Noble. The matter is further complicated since agency terms mean that the same prices must be applied on all e-books wherever they are sold, meaning retailers selling through the app store would take a 30% hit.

Amazon declined to comment to various reporters on whether enforcement of the payment policy will mean it will have to change its Kindle application on Apple devices. According to the New York Times: "It is highly unlikely that Amazon, Sony or others will be willing to share e-book revenue or customer information with its competitor, Apple, which sells its own e-books in its iBookstore." The NYT reported that the change was only being applied to e-books at present.