The move that initially killed the Sony Reader app in the iOS App Store was finally reversed today. Back in February, just as several companies were preparing to launch content delivery applications to iOS users such as Sony’s Reader and Follett’s Cafe Scribe Digital Textbooks, the powers that be in Cupertino enacted new in-app purchase and subscription policies. With the introduction of the App Store Review Guideline section 11.13 many companies such as Follett were going to be required to provide access to in-app purchases of their content in addition to their already established code or card purchased on the web or in store to activate and download electronic textbooks in their app. Any in-app purchase or subscription results in Apple receiving a 30% slice of the pie in sales and since neither of the above companies were privy to the February change before launch their applications were rejected from the App Store.
You can see Apple’s goal for the income potential here, but if companies such as Sony and Follett are already paying this cut to their publishers they wouldn’t be able to successfully launch applications in that environment without taking a loss or passing the cost on to consumers. Its clearly bad business to pass that on to the customer when a big part of the e-book lure is reduced cost. Apple seems to have realized this is going to hurt them in the long run, as they have generally seen most provide in-app offerings when it was optional and bad press when it was mandated (though it seems to be an impossibility for bad press to ever stick to Apple for more than a few weeks.)
Now that Apple has backed down on this issue, the companies are clear to launch their previously rejected apps… as long as they don’t link anybody from the apps to their respective bookstore purchase pages. Hopefully we’ll see these in the coming weeks.
Here is the previous version of the In-App purchase Guideline:
11.13 Apps can read or play approved content (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video) that is sold outside of the app, for which Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues, provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP at the same price or less than it is offered outside the app. This applies to both purchased content and subscriptions.
The new guidelines are now in section 11.14 and now read:
11.14 Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the app to purchase the approved content. Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app.