In response to Apple beginning to enforce new iOS4 app design guidelines that prohibit in-app links that allow consumers to bypass the Apple purchasing system, retailers are scrambling to let consumers know that they can still read their e-books on their Apple devices and alternative ways to buy e-books. Kobo, for one, announced plans to develop its own HTML5 eReading Web app that will allow consumers to shop, browse and share content outside of the Apple purchasing system by using their web browser. B&N also plans to release updated versions of its Nook and Nook Kids for iPad apps
Other content retailers are expected to follow suit. Beginning this week, links to e-book stores in Amazon’s Kindle app and those in apps by such e-book retailers as Kobo, Blio, B&N and Google eBooks have all been removed. In fact B&N's Nook and Nook Kids for iPads apps have been removed form the App store. While Apple has prohibited links to retailer sites outside the app (or even in-app messages that inform customers of other ways to purchase content outside the app), consumers will still be able to read any previously purchased content on their Apple devices. In addition e-book content purchased outside of the Apple purchasing system will also continue appear in consumers e-book libraries.
Kobo is following the lead of the Financial Times, which earlier in the summer released an HTML5 web app that allows consumers to bypass the Apple system and allows the Financial Times to avoid the 30% commission Apple takes for each sale made through its system. In a phone interview, Kobo CTO Dan Leibu, Kobo’s HTML5 web e-Reader is currently in development and will likely be available “sometime this year.” Leibu said Apple’s guidelines require them to remove links to buy content and even the ability to create a Kobo account and “even talking about another retail site.”
Leibu emphasized that Kobo's iOS4 apps will continue to function as e-readers and its Reading Life and social networking features continue to work. All content previously purchased as well as new content will continue to appear in the reader's personal library. And while Leibu acknowledged that while Apple’s new policies are “less convenient” for consumers, he said consumers will be able to use Kobo’s native iOS4 reading app in conjunction with the forthcoming HTML5 web eReader.
Indeed Leibu said the forthcoming HTML5 eReader will offer new functionality—like the ability to bring in additional content from the web like a video or a blog page with content relevant to a travel book or images from Flickr.com. Kobo removed its ebookstore link and added a Kobo New feed that, in this case, has allowed them a little lee-way around Apple's guidelines. The news feed lets Kobo inform their consumers that they can buy e-books through the Kobo.com site, apparently bypassing Apple's ban on offering links or messages that direct consumers to non-Apple retail sites.
Earlier this year Apple announced that its app development guidelines would ban the practice of allow retailers to offer a way around the Apple in-app purchasing system and the 30% commission Apple receives on purchases made through it. A soft deadline of June 30 became a hard one this week. Blio, the multimedia software developed by Ray Kurzweil’s KNFB reading Technology and supported by B&T, released earlier this month for Apple devices, was one of the first apps for iOS4 to announce that it had removed links to its bookstore.
Pointing to the development of its HTML5 web eReader, Leibu said, “I think you’ll see a lot of companies explore this route. There’s room for both the native Apple apps and HTML5 browser apps.”