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Barnes & Noble pulls ebook sales from Iphone app

Book industry refuses to pay royalties to Apple
Tue Jul 26 2011, 12:04

BOOKSTORE BARNES & NOBLE has launched an update to its Nook for Iphone app which removes the option to buy ebooks directly within the app.

The bookstore chain released version 2.1.2 of its app yesterday, adding a note that said, "You can read any NOOK Book you have purchased on this updated NOOK for iPhone app, however the Shop link has been removed so to buy NOOK Books from your iPhone, open your Safari browser and go to"

This is an unusual move by Barnes & Noble, as it makes it more difficult for readers to buy its books and removes a valuable feature from its app. It seems unlikely that it would decide to pull the plug on this of its own accord.

So why does it no longer sell ebooks through its app? And why offer no explanation? We think it might have something to do with the fact that Apple wants 30 per cent of in-app sales.

If app makers don't want to pay this hefty sum, which is understandable if their business largely depends on these sales, they have to withdraw. This is similar to how digital news outlets like the Wall Street Journal dealt with the problem of Apple demanding 30 per cent of subscription fees - they simply pulled out and redirected people to their web sites.

Amazon also announced yesterday that it would be pulling in-app sales of its Kindle books due to the policy change. Google also did the same for its Google Books app.

Technically all three players are now complying with Apple's rules, but Apple isn't really any better for it, as it has failed to gain payments for in-app purchases from the ebook sellers.

Users slated Barnes & Nobles' decision to pull in-app sales, with one reviewer on the Itunes store writing, "you are paving the way for Ibooks to be the only e-reader on Iphone."

Perhaps this is Apple's intent, but it might struggle to succeed in the ebook industry if it upsets enough people. Publishers and authors are currently negotiating a major deal with rival Google for the largest ebook store in the world, which could lead to even greater competition between Apple and Google in the ebook market.

We have contacted Apple for comment on this and are awaiting its response. µ


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