In the Battle over eBook Apps on the iPad, Apple Says “My Way or the Highway;” Kindle Replies “Whatever, Dude”

By Steve Windwalker
Earlier this week — as we sat around waiting for Amazon to come clean and announce a Kindle tablet — we conducted a little experiment here at Kindle Nation.
In the midst of considerable internet fanfare, Apple forced a change in the Kindle App for the iPad, the iPhone, and the iPod Touch. Basically, the result is that there’s no longer a link to the Kindle Store within the Kindle App.
Our experiment? We thought we would see what would happen if we didn’t have anything to say about it. More of those kinds of news items appear these days on our BookGorilla.com sister blog anyway, so we didn’t feel we’d be letting you down by staying mum.
Why? Well, this is the kind of “issue” that gets a lot of attention from tech bloggers and partisans who believe the world will soon end in a conflagration ensuing from global thermonuclear war between Apple and Amazon. We were curious to see if the change really mattered much to anyone among the thousands of serious readers who visit Kindle Nation each day.
The results are in. We didn’t receive a single email, blog comment, tweet, or Facebook comment or message about the change. We know that a small but significant percentage of our readers read Kindle books on their iPads and other iOs devices, so it’s actually pretty remarkable that there wasn’t a peep or a tweet. 
But now that the dust has settled, or now that the dust continues to just sit there, we’ll briefly review what has happened here. 
  • In January 2008, shortly after the launch of the Kindle, Apple’s Steve Jobs commented that the Kindle was “a failed concept from the top” because “nobody reads any more.”
  • In January of 2010, at the event announcing the launch of the iPad, Jobs said that “Amazon has done a good job with Kindle” but that Apple was “going to stand on their shoulders” and the the successful ebook concept even further with iBooks. Several ebook platforms including Kindle, Nook, and Kobo created free Kindle Apps, all with better selection and better features than the iBooks platform, and it quickly became obvious both that Kindle would be the leading iOs ereading platform and also that Apple was either ill-prepared or unmotivated, or both, to make much of the iBooks platform.
  • Early this year, Apple said it was going to change the rules for other reading apps on its iOs devices so that users would no longer be able to click on an in-app link to be taken directly, for instance, to the Kindle Store. (Well, that’s not exactly what Apple said. What Apple actually said was that it would grab 30 percent of gross proceeds from all sales generated by in-app ebook sales on platforms such as the Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. 30 percent, of course, constitutes 100 percent of Amazon’s standard share of Kindle ebook sales.)
So it is no surprise that neither Amazon nor the other players would go along with this kind of greedy power play. If there was a surprise, it was 
  • first, that Apple actually followed through and brought this to a head; and
  • second, that anyone thought it would really be an effective use of Apple’s power.
Instead, it seems like Apple is doing all it can to make itself irrelevant to the serious readers who do most of the buying when it comes to ebooks. And Amazon, obviously recognizing that Apple’s power play changed very little, has played its hand in a very calm, understated way. The company sent the following message Wednesday to Kindle customers who have registered an iOs device for Kindle App use:

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

We’d like to update you on a change to the Kindle application that affects the way that you access the Kindle Store. In order to comply with recent policy changes by Apple, we’ve removed the “Kindle Store” link from within the app that opened Safari and took you to the Kindle Store.

You can still shop on iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch–just open the Safari web browser and go to Amazon.com. (For quick access, 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. Thanks for being a Kindle customer.

Exactly. But perhaps out of an overabundance of politeness, Amazon didn’t take things one step further. Sure, you can “bookmark” the Kindle Store on your iOs device’s browser. But you can also add the Kindle Store to your iOs Home screen, right alongside your Kindle App, just as you see them in the second row of the screenshot at the right. Here’s how:

  • Just open your iPad’s Safari browser and click on or enter this link – http://amzn.to/Kindle-on-iOs  
  • When the Kindle Store page opens on your iPad browser, just click on the little icon just to the left of the browser’s URL entry field, and select “Add to Home Screen” from the pulldown menu that pops up, as in the screenshot at right.
  • Then just find the new Kindle Store icon on your iPad’s Home display, tap it twice so you can move it, and use your fingertip to move it next to your Kindle App. (Note: While you’re at it, you may also want to move the iBooks icon to the same general area, for days when you want to buy expensive books at the prices Steve Jobs feels you should pay for them.)
Over at the Atlantic Wire, blogger Rebecca Greenfield’s view of the Apple power play seems well-considered, if a little more glum than ours: “It looks like everyone involved loses something in the e-reader app store battle,” she writes. She says it is “far more inconvenient for iPad users to get reads on their devices,” but I have to admit that I am not feeling her pain. What’s so hard about tapping the Kindle Store icon and buying a book. You’ll seal the deal and arrive back in your Kindle App a few seconds before the new book downloads. Shazam.

But Wired Epicenter’s Tim Carmody concludes that “Apple’s new rules haven’t knee-capped Amazon in the slightest. Far from it. In fact, Apple’s given them a gift….”

Whatever the case, it is certainly hard to imagine that Apple could make any kind of plausible case that their power play was undertaken for the benefit of iPad or other iOs users. And the more of these silly missteps we see from Apple, the more likely it is that ultimately they will begin to drive even some of their own loyal fans off in the direction of some other tablet from some other company, perhaps a company that already has a stake in the ebook business.

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14 Responses to In the Battle over eBook Apps on the iPad, Apple Says “My Way or the Highway;” Kindle Replies “Whatever, Dude”

  1. ipad apps November 26, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    Truly good site thank you so much for your time in writing the posts for all of us to learn about.

  2. Seer August 8, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    I really don’t think the impact has been felt yet. Unless you specifically followed the story, you wouldn’t really understand unless you updated the app and then went to buy a book from within the app in the last week. I know Kindle, Nook and Kobo sent out email notices, but we’re always getting stuff from them and frankly I filter that out.

    When I went looking in forums and blogs about a week ago, this site did not come up. In fact, very few did, which I found very surprising. But that’s changing in the last few days as users are realizing the button is gone. Someone ranting in a forum posted this link, or I wouldn’t have known about it. Unfortunately unless all these complaints hit the media and shame Apple publicly, I don’t think the impact will be felt collectively.

    Apple never bothered to reply to my complaint, despite the fact that I’ve purchased 8 pieces of equipment from them and carry Applecare on half of them.

    Personally, I’m very disappointed on several levels. I dislike the reduced functionality, I resent not being able to use a popular app the way Droid and even Blackberry users still can, I’m concerned about having Apple further limit the use or selection of other apps at their whim, and I’m wondering if I should remove DRM or begin to buy ePub books to maintain some control in case Amazon and Apple get into again. It has been estimated that there are over 200 million iOS devises out there. Even if only 10% use Kindle or Nook, Apple deliberately decided to downgrade the flexibility an astounding number of their own customer’s experience on their devices.
    Why couldn’t they have improved iBooks to make it the best reader out there, earning our business and keeping our goodwill?

  3. Stuart Friedman July 29, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    My issue is not about where the button is, but whether this policy will be extended to further limit my ability to control my iPad. For example, I use Line2 for wifi/text messaging on my iPhone/iPad. I have unlimited US/Canadian text messaging and calling, but am PAYG on international calling/texting. Is every call I place to my brother in the UK an “in app purchase?”

    I get quality controls on developers. I vaguely understand (but do not approve of) censorship, e.g. the shaken baby app, etc. My tolerance breaks down when Apple’s motive can only be financial.

    The one thing I like about Android is the fact that the Apps are not silos. In Apple, every App is in a silo and very little works together. I’ve own an iPad 1 since day one. Apple’s abuse of power is making me move a little bit more to the Android camp. It is not any individual step that Apple takes, but when I back up and look at the overall progress.

  4. judi July 29, 2011 at 9:13 am #

    I love my Imac and I may never go back to a windows based PC again but I’m seriously considering getting a non-Mac tablet if I get a tablet. Apple’s arm twisting power plays in relation to apps is irritating and sometimes arrogant.

  5. Sara July 29, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    It was a non-event to me. I never shopped from the Kindle app anyway. I always went to the Amazon Kindle store using Safari on my iPad, iPod, and iPhone. And then had the books (except for Vooks) sent to my Kindle. I have never read much on my iPad. It’s heavy and uncomfortable to hold compared to a Kindle. FWIW I never shopped for books on my Kindle either. And I do the exact same thing with my Nook, which released a new app the other day complying with Apple’s rules.

    That said, out of defiance and to prove I am a bit of a rebel, I didn’t let my Kindle or Nook apps update. Take that. Apple!

    Making a bookmark per your suggestion. Just wish I’d thought of it myself!

  6. Linda July 29, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    Actually until you upgrade the application the old link was still working on my IPad. Although due to my age or eyesight I read more on the IPad than on my kindle I have rarely bought books from the in app link. I prefer to use links from blogs to discover new authors. I love my IPad but I find Apples high handed tactics deplorable. I love kindle and Amazon.

  7. Christopher Wills July 29, 2011 at 2:28 am #

    Apple’s negative tactics suggest a company that doesn’t have any bright new ideas on the horizon and so they are desperately trying to make their current products fit in the wrong sectors. In the long run they would probably sell more iPads if they allowed apps like Kindle; otherwise as you suggest, buyers will migrate to more friendly tablets with more functionality.

  8. David F July 28, 2011 at 11:29 pm #

    Stuff like this is why I am not, never have been, and probably never will be an Apple fanboy.

    On the other hand, Amazon has on several occasions gone out of their way to provide me with exceptional customer service, so I am a proud Amazon fan. 🙂

    It’s all about the free market and customer service. Amazon understands it, Apple doesn’t seem to.

  9. Wandra July 28, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    I’d started using my iPad because it made sense to carry one device during my commute. With this change, I will no longer use the app and just use my Kindle for reading. The change really, uh, torqued me off.

  10. Beth July 28, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    I was debating on whether or not to buy a Kindle because I could read books on my iPad. This has decided me! I am not an Apple person and now I will most likely not change my mind. By the way the iPad was a contest win so I didn’t have to buy it and now will be reading books on a Kindle.

  11. Juanita July 28, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    I agree with Pam. And I lost a fair bit of respect for Apple when they did this. I haven’t yet found a book in the app store that I couldn’t find at Amazon (Amazon is less expensive too). Add the cleaner, faster interface, and it’s safe to say I’d even pay a tad more just to read it on my Kindle app. If I was hesitant about iBooks before, I’m dead set against it now.

  12. Jackie Kramer July 28, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    The change didn’t slow me down a bit. Used to the rapid response from Amazon whenever there’s a Kindle problem, I just performed the instructions you just posted and just kept on keeping on.

  13. Pam July 28, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    I’ve never bought a book in-app unless I was reading a sample and wanted to buy the book. I’d rather use the browser to go to the Kindle store, read the reviews, check out the author’s page, etc. I’m a little ashamed of Apple – it’s not Amazon’s fault that Apple can’t create a decent bookstore! I love Apple products, but I wish they’d spend more time on the next new product instead of bullying app developers! You can put me in the “whatever” category too…

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