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Apple's in-app-purchasing rules mean inconvenience for e-book buys

Consumer Reports News: July 27, 2011 12:36 PM

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Do you use an app from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo to get e-books and digital subscriptions on your iPhone, iPad, or other Apple device? Be warned: It's not going to be a simple swipe-and-tap process anymore.

Apple has changed the terms of its in-app purchasing policy, and now companies that want to sell digital content directly within an app on Apple devices owe Apple 30 percent of each purchase. Companies that don't want to give up that revenue now must make their customers buy content outside of the app—and some are modifying their apps accordingly.

E-reader apps such as the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Kobo Wireless eReader apps, as a case in point, do still function on Apple devices, and users still have access to content purchased prior to the change. But links to online e-bookstores—the Amazon Kindle store, for example—are apparently disappearing from their respective apps. The Nook app has actually disappeared entirely and will be available again in an upgraded version that, responds to Apple's new demands, among other changes.

This development puts consumers in the middle of a conflict between Apple and app developers. And it threatens, at least for now, to make Apple's iBookstore the only one-stop option to buy titles on the company's devices.

Buying an e-book or digital newspaper with your Apple device may now require some inconvenient additional steps. For example, when we tried buying a book using the latest version of Kindle’s app on the iPad, we noticed that the link to the Kindle store had disappeared. We had to exit the app, open the iPad’s browser, and log onto Amazon’s Kindle site to make a purchase. Then we had to return to the app and sync it to our account, at which point the new content appeared in our library.

In a message to customers, Amazon made the following suggestion for quick access to Kindle books: "We recommend creating a bookmark in your web browser. Your Kindle books will be delivered to your Kindle application and automatically downloaded when you open the app."

If you have an older version of the Kindle app, try to avoid updating as long as you can. On an iPad with a prior version of the app, we were still able to buy a book from within the app. But we're not sure how long this function will exist.

If you're in the market for an e-reader, you can check out how individual tablets fared and which we recommend in our most recent Ratings, available to subscribers.

Apple rule change hits WSJ, Amazon, Nook apps [Washington Post]
Booksellers Alter App Sales [Wall Street Journal]

Maggie Shader

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