Amazon, Barnes & Noble halt direct e-book sales via iOS apps

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Booksellers Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble have removed e-book purchase options from applications optimized for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS mobile operating system, further indicating that Apple is beginning to actively enforce App Store subscription guidelines prohibiting content providers from integrating in-app purchase mechanisms linking consumers directly to their own websites.

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Amazon's Kindle App for iOS no longer features a "buy" button.

Updated editions of Amazon's Kindle app and Barnes & Noble's Nook for iPhone surfaced Monday in the App Store without "buy" buttons. In order to purchase new e-book titles, consumers must now access the iPhone or iPad's Safari web browser to visit either www.amazon.com/kindlestore or www.nookbooks.com, a far more cumbersome and confusing process than direct in-app downloads. The moves resulted in a flurry of negative App Store user reviews: "I can't see myself using my Kindle app on my phone or iPad anymore," writes one user, while a Nook user chimes in "By killing the in-app store on the iPhone, you are paving the way for iBooks to be the only e-reader on iPhone."

Amazon and Barnes & Noble updated their iOS apps hours after rival e-book retailer Kobo took the same steps. Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Kobo CEO Mike Serbinis said Apple told the firm Saturday it may no longer operate its digital bookstore from within its branded iOS applications and must stop selling e-books directly through the solutions. The Journal itself also will eliminate direct subscription options. In addition, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)--which removed its Google Books e-reader solution from the App Store inventory over the weekend--restored the application to the App Store late Monday, albeit without links to Google's e-book store, its help site or even a site where users may sign up for a Google Books account.

Apple introduced the App Store subscription platform in mid-February. Publishers immediately expressed serious reservations over the terms of the service, which awarded Apple 30 percent of subscription revenues, as well as ownership of consumer data like names and email addresses. Some smaller developers even scrapped their iOS application plans. Apple quietly updated the guidelines in June, removing all pricing guidelines and giving content providers the freedom to offer in-app subscriptions at any price they wish.

"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," reads section 11.14 of the revised App Store Subscriptions agreement. "Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues for approved content that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app." Apple set a June 30 deadline to comply with the rule.

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal article

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