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Apple vs Sony: it's not what you think

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Back in November of 2010, Sony reported that it was creating an app for iOS devices and Android that allow them to read Sony ebooks. The app is inspired by Sony's Reader's UI. Apple rejected the app, according to Sony. Sony asserts that "Apple changed the way it enforces its rules and this will prevent the current version of the Reader™ for iPhone® from being available in the app store."

The story has been picked up fairly widely, even making it to the New York Times, who asserts that Apple has reversed itself. This isn't completely accurate, but it's unfortunately the story that's been most widely promoted. Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller says that in fact “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.”

Various articles, including the New York Times piece, are speculating that this means that other ereader apps, like Amazon's free Kindle app for iPhone and iPad, will also summarily be rejected.

Except that the Kindle app doesn't offer in-app purchase. If you tap the "Shop in Kindle Store" button in the Kindle app, Safari launches, and you're taken directly to Amazon's Kindle Website store. Moreover, if you buy a Kindle book from Amazon on your computer, or your iPhone or your iPad, it's automatically available (and even synched) with all the devices.

As this TechCrunch article by MG Sigler notes there's not really much controversy here—but there does seem to be a failure to communicate, if you compare the two statements from Apple and Sony, as Sigler does:

Sony says:

Apple is now requiring “in-app” purchasing rather than linking out to our store. That’s not what we submitted based on precedent set by other eBook retailers. We’re working on a solution.

Apple says:

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.

I note that like all stores, Apple is free to choose who may and may not have their products included in the store's inventory, and that Apple does expect to collect 30% (in most cases—there seems to be some exceptions, potentially, buried in the legalese) from purchases in the App store. And of course, it strains my credulity somewhat to expect Apple to aid and abet compeititors by allowing them to sell their goods via Apple's infrastructure without Apple getting a cut.

Personally, I think there are better issues to get exercised about—like the quality of ebooks in general.

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