Apple app restrictions will apply to e-books

Apple app restrictions will apply to e-books

Apple will require "all publishers of content-based apps" available via its app store to remove links that offer that content for sale outside of it, the company has said. It includes those companies which sell e-books via apps.

The decision puts Apple on a collision course with Amazon, whose Kindle app directs users to its Kindle store via a website link in order to get around Apple's 30% sales tax. Under the new rules, the Kindle app would have to remove its links to the external web store, and provide links to purchase e-books within the app, using Apple's billing system.

Apple would not comment directly on how this would apply to e-books read and purchased on apps, but it is understood that all parties who sell content on apps will need to comply to the new directive. The cut-off date for compliance remains unclear, however.

In a press release released today announcing a "new subscription service", Apple confirmed it would now require publishers to allow in-app purchases, and that if an offer was made "outside the app" the same--or better--offer must be made inside the app. Apple will take a cut of 30% of all in-app purchases, made via its app store, but will still allow content to be used that has been purchased externally. But crucially, Apple has now said "publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a website, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app".

Apple said the rules applied to all content-rich apps, including "magazines, newspapers, video, music, etc". When asked if the "etc" included e-books, Apple confirmed that it did, and that further announcements would be made about compliance.

The statement puts to rest the confusion surrounding Apple's in-app rules, which blew up when Sony reported that its Sony Reader app was rejected by Apple because it sent readers to a website in order to purchase their e-books. Apple had previously said the "in-app clause" was already part of the developer guidelines, but was not enforced, and said that publishers had to allow in-app purchases along with links to external sources.

But its latest move appears to also rule out the second option, meaning users of the Kindle would be forced to purchase via the app, costing Amazon 30% of the cost, or completely independently of the app environment. Amazon has not commented on the changes.