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Apple did the same thing to Kindle for iPhone back when it launched.

We submitted the original version to Apple with a fully functioning store built into it—and were then stuck in submission limbo. Two weeks later, Apple announces their intent to build in-app purchasing.

The kicker: Apple wanted a 30% cut of every book sold on the store …and at the same time, had negotiated with book publishers that the publishers MUST sell all books at a 30% margin on ALL stores if they want to sell their books via Apple's own ebook store.

Aka we couldn't sell books at an increased cost, even if we wanted to. We would have had to take a loss on every purchase.

In the end, we had to remove all of the store functionality from the app, and weren't even allowed to link people directly to the web store for purchasing (or even instructions for purchasing).






Even crazier, Apple in some cases forces apps that use webviews to block out links to the Kindle Store that would normally appear. My iOS app [1] has speed reading and accessibility features that we overlay on websites, including the Kindle Cloud Reader.

Apple wouldn't approve our app until we blocked the Kindle Store button from loading on the Kindle Cloud Reader website. It never occurred to me that Apple would try to exercise control over how third-party websites are rendered inside webviews, but it turns out they do.

1: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/beeline-reader/id938026867?m...


> It never occurred to me that Apple would try to exercise control over how third-party websites are rendered inside webviews, but it turns out they do

Wow. I'm not sure why this isn't all over the tech press. Apple forcing developers to modify third party websites is way, way over the line of what I would call ethical.

I'm generally an Apple fan, but this is nothing more than unrestrained corporate greed.

Disgusting.


Yeah I generally try not to make waves that could cause us issues for App Store review, for obvious reasons. And I didn't really mind taking out the button since it wouldn't have generated revenue for us (we don't have an Amazon affiliate account). It just struck me as weird that Apple was trying to edit the web, so to speak.

It wasn't just Kindle. There were dozens of really high quality book reading apps that either sold old or hard to find books, comics, or even mangas. All of them evaporated over night once Apple forced the 30% cut. I'm still very bitter about that move.

Apple even went as far as making some Steve Jobsian rule that you had to sell your book for the same price on the web as you did in-app. So you couldn't make up for the 30% cut. That was a pure bad-faith move and Apple only recently rescinded that requirement.


For others reading this comment: “recently” as in “several years ago”, i.e. not do recently, that rule was rather short-lived.

My dad has had iPads since the first one, and it is still jarring for him to not be able to just click a "store" button in the Kindle app. (I believe it used to have a webview for the store built-in; I do not use the Kindle app)

He was very confused when it disappeared. I imagine most users feel this way. I had to coach my mom to sign up for Pandora on the website so she saved a couple bucks a month, and it was baffling to her why it costed more in the app.


Agreed. I am very aware of Apple policies on this regard and anything discussed in this thread, but still two weeks ago I wandered around in the Amazon app looking for 10 minutes on how to buy a book in Kindle version... then I realized I had to switch to Safari for that.

This is confusing for users.


boy, that kind of "deep regulation" into UX design from a single arbitrary company should be illegal regardless.

people bought apple hardware and the operating system, not voted them the unilateral governing body on consumer choice in that platform. one should not be taken to imply the other.


IMO this is a problem with the shareholder-driven corporate structure. Corporations have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize value to their shareholders, and they have to show continual growth in order to see share prices continue to increase, which often leads to ant-consumer practices once organic growth becomes difficult.

Apple's a perfect example of this: they have a long history of making high-quality hardware products loved by consumers at an immense scale with high margins. In a more rational world, that would be "enough", and even if their revenue fluctuated somewhat from year to year, they could still easily support their activities and pay out generous dividends while focusing only on their core competency.

Instead we live in a world where a small drop in demand for a single product based on extrinsic market forces leads to a slew of articles heralding an "end of Apple". So they prioritize service revenue, and continue to squeeze more and more value out of every revenue stream which flows through their products.

It's insane that this is seen as necessary for a company which basically prints money, and sits inside a massive moat of wealth greater than the GDP of many nations.


I've never actually owned one, but did the iphone ever allow users to install arbitrary apps (without jailbreaking, of course)?

No it did not.

Yeah, it was supremely frustrating for us. The original store experience was fully native, and still a far better experience than what the app has today :(

Could they put: Apple Users: Upgrade.

Then on the payment page:

- Spotify fee: $9.99.

- Apple's cut: $3.33. (When purchased through the app, save online).

- Total: $13.32 > [Purchase Button]


Probably would be deemed to violate the Guidline that "You must not directly or indirectly target iOS users to use a purchasing method other than in-app purchase, and your general communications about other purchasing methods must not discourage use of in-app purchase."

This is why I'll never 'purposefully' own an apple product. I made a client buy me an iphone to test out their ios builds from (I'm the api/backend dev), I'll probably someday do react native stuff/cross platform and might cringefully get a cheap old mac just to build the ios app, but I'll do it begrudging the whole way to the app store..lol

Your post makes the case for itself, 30% of $13.32 is not $3.33. As Spotify raised their price to counter the apple fee, the also had to give 30% of that raise.

To get $9.99 (for the first year at the 30% rate) it'd be

Spotify fee: $9.99 Apple fee: $4.28 Total: $14.27

When they were charging $12.99 on iOS Spotify was only taking home $9.09 and Apple getting $3.87.

Really goes to show the insanity. Apple probably made more from a Spotify user than an Apple music user. (Of course, they're happy to have an Apple music user for the increased lock in.)

(But as others point out, Spotify showing this almost certainly wouldn't be permitted by Apple).


I miss this feature from Pandora. It used to let you buy an album on iTunes or Amazon, but they eventually removed that feature.

I'll feel sorry for Kindle when their devices support EPUB files.


> Kindle for iPhone

You put a walled garden... in another walled garden.

On a more serious note: I get it; among Apple users are the most happily paying people that you can find on this planet and if you have a product you want to make it available to them. No wonder they think it their right to take a massive 30% cut.


An important thing is that the Kindle walled garden is an abstract free program that can be installed into most devices. It doesn't try to push the customer around. There are very different types of garden out there.

Amazon very much tries to push publishers around. How is what Amazon does to publishers any different than Apple?

Publishers being bullied by Amazon can go somewhere else and reach the same consumers, for the most part. It's intertwined with how much the consumers are being bullied.

In the case of e-ink kindles it's sort of the same problem, but the kindle app is available on many platforms so it reduces the harm by a lot.


In this case Kindle is the platform and it’s far more dominant in its market than iOS is. The book publishers had to conform to Amazon’s terms.

https://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140608/business/140609...

The disagreement spilled into public view last month when Amazon tried to dissuade its customers from buying Hachette titles on its website, removing discounts from some books or delaying shipments by as much as five weeks when items typically ship within three to five days. By refusing to buckle under the pressure, Hachette is leading the charge for publishers' fight against Amazon.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/02/amazon-greedy-...

Besides, how far will a book publisher get if they can’t sell on Amazon.


Most of that's talking about physical books, which isn't really relevant here.

Also screw a lot of those publishers. They were demanding control over the price amazon sells at, which should be none of their business. Lawmakers need to fix the first sale doctrine for digital goods.

> Besides, how far will a book publisher get if they can’t sell on Amazon.

If they can't sell on kindle they should be fine.


So did you read the other article about how much Amazon charges in fees for small publishers and the demands it places on them?

So you don’t care about publishers of physical books who according to one of the articles actually go negative because of the “Amazon tax” but you do care about software developers who can’t sell loot boxes without a 30% cut going to Apple

What do you think is Amazon’s motive for selling Kindle books below cost if it isn’t to kill competition just to raise prices later?


Or in other words: Apple users are the product that Apple sells to publishers, for 30%?

At least the Kindle and Kindle app can read books from other sources, they don't force you to buy from Amazon.

Can you clarify what you mean by "At least"? It looks like you might be implying that Apple's Books app forces you to buy books from Apple book store.

The Kindle iPhone app still doesn't even link you to the website so you can buy books does it? It only looks like I can add it to a "list" that I assume I can view in the browser and then purchase.

Apps are not allowed to link the website for purchasing. That's one of Apple's rules.

https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#in-...

> Apps and their metadata may not include buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase.


Now I have this wild supposition that every time I see an

<add it to your wish list!>

button it is so that Apple won't fall on you like a ton of bricks for suggesting I can buy things outside their store.


Amazon played the victim here but book publishers preferred Apple’s model to Amazon selling their books at a loss to keep competitors out and to boost sales of the Kindle.

As a user this is infuriating, I remember spending a good chunk of time trying to figure out how to get book on the Kindle app :/

Same with Audible. I was sitting in an airport, after finishing my last book, spending so much time trying to figure out how to buy a book through the app on my phone. Was so confused.

I've used the Kindle app ever since it launched, and have followed this fiasco. The trouble for someone like me is I would rather purchase my content from Amazon since I can read it on any device, not just an apple device.

p.s. Do you know how I would go about recommending someone add the ability to have green or amber text on the black background?


This is possible in the iOS app that I built [1], which accesses your Kindle library through the Kindle Cloud Reader web app and injects a javascript that allows advanced coloring options. This is used primarily to enable our line-wrapping color gradients, which facilitate visual tracking, but you can also add colors without the gradients. Here are some screenshots of green/black [2] and amber(ish)/black [3]. The app is free to download and this feature has a free trial so you can see how it works. You can also use our Chrome/Firefox/Brave extension [4] for reading on the computer.

Unfortunately we cannot build a similar tool for Android, as Amazon blocks the Kindle Cloud Reader on all Android devices (including the Kindle Fire).

1: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/beeline-reader/id938026867?m...

2: https://imgur.com/a/nFzLNIs

3: https://imgur.com/a/52kEvi5

4: https://www.beelinereader.com


> p.s. Do you know how I would go about recommending someone add the ability to have green or amber text on the black background?

If you're on Android:

1. go to Settings -> Info -> About

2. Draw a lowercase h on the screen (anywhere), and you'll see a "special color mode enabled", and should get amber on black. another letter gives you green on black, but I forget which :( . There's a bunch of hidden color combinations there :)

I'm not sure that exists on iOS, though

---

For requesting it: help & feedback -> contact us -> give feedback is your best bet. I'm out of touch w/ the Kindle team, but at least several years ago many of the devs would obsessively read customer feedback (that wasn't deemed sensitive/PII)


Wow - could not find any other details about this (my google skills are poor?)

Great tip.

Any idea some where to to find the other hidden combinations ?


I don't think it's actually been advertised anywhere - welcome to a very small group of cool kids ;)

This is the coolest easter egg I have heard about in a bigco mobile app.

Also: there were multiple ebook readers on the store at the time that were already selling books in-app. Several stopped development, others removed their in-app store.

I suspect we (Kindle) we're either the trigger for the in-app purchasing store, or really accelerated plans around it.


I wasted so much time trying to figure out how to get books in the iOS kindle app. When I finally figured out that I had to use my laptop, I was still confused at so why the iOS app was not saying anything about anything.

Technically you can use your iPad/iPhone, but you have to use a web browser instead of the Kindle app. A funny thing happens when you do — the website redirects you to the Amazon app, which then redirects you back to the website. Honestly, I don't know how Amazon does purchasing through the Amazon app without giving 30% to Apple, but it seems that they don't let you purchase books this way.

The 30% fee only applies to digital goods, not physical ones. It's part of why there's all the awkward hoops that the main amazon app goes through when you run into digital goods, but everything else is mostly sane

If that's the case, could Spotify work around this by mailing something to the customer every month (like a "Certificate of Subscription")? That way it'd technically be a physical good.

I imagine that would be insufficient to transform the purchase into that of a physical good. Might have a chance if it were a physical widget (USB key?) that you plug into your computer or phone to validate your subscription. Even that is walking the line, since you're arguably still buying a digital good, albeit one that is activated/confirmed via a hardware key.

So if I were to buy a sheet of paper from Amazon every month, that wouldn't be a physical good?

Or is the rule that the physical good can't be accompanied by anything beyond the physical object itself? If that's the case, then is Amazon not allowed to sell items via its iOS app if those items come with warranties?

Or what about video games? If Amazon is allowed to sell physical copies of them, then can Spotify go full-AOL-mode and send a CD with a Spotify installer on it every month?


Apple is not a robot. And they're already interpreting vague text against spotify wherever they can.

If you want a better answer, if a large percent of amazon app purchases became physical objects tied to upgrades you can use on your iPhone, then they would also get the hammer.

Precedent doesn't matter here, the rules will adapt to whatever is needed to require that 30% cut. (Unless Apple changes their mind first.)


My point is that we can get to a point where the only way Apple can actually enforce such a rule consistently is by forcing itself into the process of purchasing physical goods and dictating what physical goods can and cannot be sold.

More importantly: the more Apple tries to react to these tactics, the more evidence in favor of Spotify's case. It's a classic case of squeezing sand so hard that it slips through your fingers.


> My point is that we can get to a point where the only way Apple can actually enforce such a rule consistently is by forcing itself into the process of purchasing physical goods and dictating what physical goods can and cannot be sold.

Okay, you forced them into having a rule about an exceptionally niche category of physical goods. They already ban the sale of firearms, so this isn't even new. It causes them no problems.

> More importantly: the more Apple tries to react to these tactics, the more evidence in favor of Spotify's case. It's a classic case of squeezing sand so hard that it slips through your fingers.

Not when they're so obviously looking for a loophole. It would hurt Spotify's reputation more than Apple.


It's not that niche of a category, though. Any sale of a physical good with a warranty or separate registration process or "cloud" features or any other non-physical good/service that's tied to that physical good would be caught up in this. That's a pretty broad category.

Even if we wanted to stick to a narrow category of "subscription to a service that entails shipping physical media devices on a subscription", there are other apps in that category (though I don't know if they do let you actually sign up via the app): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dvd-netflix/id1169772776

Spotify could do something similar and pivot into the music rental business, kinda like an inverse Netflix. Whether that'd actually be better than just paying the 30% App Store tax is another question, of course :)


Apple makes the rules; and they're mostly concerned about digital marketplaces that _could_ operate purely via IAP

Which is especially unfortunate, since most Kindle users want this feature and (probably) frequently request it, not knowing that Amazon's hand is forced.

Apple doesn’t always get 30%. You can buy iTunes gift cards 20% off. Amazon can take 90% by selling iTunes gift cards used to buy through App Store.

I don't get this. Can you elaborate? So you're saying because I bought an iTunes gift card that was $100 for $80, Apple will only ever get $10 of my actual dollars if I spend all $100? This is an interesting hack.



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