updated 11:20 pm EDT, Sun July 24, 2011
Kobo and WSJ back out after new iOS app rules
Kobo and the Wall Street Journal said Sunday they would stop offering a direct gateway to buying books or subscriptions through their iPad and iPhone apps. Both had decided to follow Apple's new iOS subscription rules barring links to something other than iTunes. Purchases for either will have to now go through the web without direct links.
Google Books may have also been affected. Its app disappeared from iTunes during the weekend without explanation.
The rules aren't fatal to the apps' successes. Kobo explained that much of its purchasing goes through the website. However, the moves give Apple a potentially unfair competitive advantage since, if Apple's rules hold, only the iBookstore will be allowed to have the direct purchasing link. Apple's current rules are a softening of what it had originally proposed in February, which would have required equal pricing in all stores and forced retailers to either raise the price across the board to stay profitable in Apple's store or else accept a steep drop in profits for Apple's store. The last-minute change in June may have been prompted by an FTC investigation.
Amazon, so far, has held out on changing the Kindle app, where a "Kindle Store" link is still very prominent. Questions have been raised over whether Amazon will be pushed into such limitations since the Kindle app is widely known to account for more reading on the iPad than iBooks. Amazon also has more clout to challenge any Apple policy changes than smaller rivals like Kobo.
Apple has long had rules prohibiting competitive music and video stores. Most of the criticism has come from its decision to wait a year after the iPad was launched, when many companies had established their bookstores, to clamp down on competition.