Apple Changes Rules For E-Book Sales

Apple is signaling that it will require e-book app developers, such as Amazon, to route e-book sales through Apple's system.

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Apple also shook up the e-book world this week. The company sent a signal that it will require all e-book app developers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, to route their sales through the Apple system.

NPR's Lynn Neary has that story.

LYNN NEARY: The apps flap began when The New York Times reported that Apple had rejected an e-book app for the iPhone, which had been developed by Sony. Apple objected to the app because it only allowed purchases of e-books from the Sony store. That news caused a stir because that's exactly the way e-book retailers, like Amazon, have been doing business. Customers using the Kindle app, for example, are sent to Amazon.com to buy a book.

Now, Apple seemed to be saying consumers should not have to go to the Web but to simply use their app to both buy and read an e-book, and Apple would get a 30 percent cut of e-book sales.

Apple issued a statement saying there had been no change in its policy. James McQuivey, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, says, technically, that's true, but...

Mr. JAMES McQUIVEY (Senior Analyst, Forrester Research): There went from being no policy to there being a policy, and now the policy is being enforced. And we assume that enforcement will reach back to include Amazon at some point.

NEARY: In fact, says McQuivey, this has implications for all retailers with an app. McQuivey says Apple has come to a new realization of the moneymaking potential of its popular devices.

Mr. McQUIVEY: They have a platform on which people are desperate to provide content because it gives them a way to make money, and Apple thinks, well, fair enough, we're going to collect a toll as you cross over our bridge to the consumer.

NEARY: But Peter Meyers, author of "The Best iPad Apps" guidebook, says consumers may ultimately benefit from Apple's move.

Mr. PETER MEYERS (Author, "The Best iPad Apps"): Because they no longer have to go to a website, to Amazon.com, for example, and they'll be able to buy books directly within the app. And at the end of day, that means that you buy your books within the app, and you read your books within the app. So, ultimately, I think the whole reading and shopping experience is going to be better for consumers.

NEARY: There is always the possibility that Amazon or Barnes & Noble and other e-book retailers might balk and withdraw their apps, but Meyers thinks that's unlikely.

Mr. MEYERS: Mainly because Amazon has spent a considerable amount of money and time over the past year advancing this message that you can buy a book from them and then read it anywhere you want. So if they had to pull their app or if they decided to pull their app, you're talking about tens of millions of people who wouldn't be able to read their books.

NEARY: There are still a lot of unanswered questions about exactly what Apple's policy is and how it will be enforced. And both Meyers and McQuivey say that may very well be a deliberate strategy on Apple's part. The company will watch to see how people react and then clarify its policy.

Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.

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