A while back I wrote a post about the news that Apple was going to start charging vendors 30% on all sales made from within apps on Apple devices. At the time, the big hullabaloo was related to Sony, who were threatening to pull all of their music out of iTunes.
Today I read here that Barnes & Noble has removed the ability to make purchases from directly within their Nook app. They instruct users to open the Safari browser and make purchases from nookbooks.com instead. That removes the 30% fee from Apple, but causes extra steps for shoppers. I then read here that it’s not just Barnes & Noble that has removed this in-app link, but also Amazon, Kobo, and others.
Reaction to this appears to be split. Commenters on the first website mostly seem irritated with Apple, saying things like, “No Flash, No Ebooks, No HTML5, No real multi-tasking, No side loading = No Thank You Apple. Apple is the AOL of today.” But the second article claims that people are all up in arms about it, complaining about how they can no longer make in-app purchases.
I think that whether or not you agree with this development will mostly depend on what kind of technology user you are. If you’re someone who wants the easiest way to buy and download content and you don’t care about the details of where your money goes, then the in-app method of making purchases is obviously much easier method. If you’re someone who’s really into gadgets and also sympathizes with smaller businesses who get 30% of each sale chomped out by a larger company, you might be more in favor of taking the extra few steps to buy your content through Safari instead.
Personally, I feel that 30% is a pretty hefty amount for Apple to take from every sale. I understand their reason for charging a fee. They are, after all, providing the platform for the sale to take place. But this could easily be prohibitive for a small business or app developer, and more than that, it just feels unfair, like a big company that’s trying to take advantage of everyone else just because they can. It will be interesting to see what happens with this in the future.
Don’t forget that you can always buy ebooks directly from websites and then transfer them to your device. That actually gives you a lot more shopping freedom because you can purchase from independent ebook stores as well.
If you want to read ebooks that are protected by Adobe DRM on your iOS device (that includes iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch) the app I recommend is Bluefire Reader.
Most of the ebooks being sold by mainstream publishers that are in PDF or ePub format are protected by DRM. Book publishers, just like music publishers, are concerned about software piracy, so they require ebook stores to use Adobe’s DRM on the ebook downloads. Programs like Adobe Reader and other standard programs or apps that read PDF files aren’t set up to deal with that DRM, so you need an app that can handle it.
Here is what you will need to do:
1. Follow my previous instructions for how to set up Adobe Digital Editions correctly. You’ll need to install it and then “authorize” with your Adobe ID.
2. Get the Bluefire Reader app for your iOS device. Download it from iTunes and install it on the device.
3. The first time you open Bluefire Reader, you’ll be asked if you want to authorize it with your Adobe ID. You should go ahead and do it. Just follow the instructions given.
Make sure to use the same ID that you used when you authorized Adobe Digital Editions on your computer. That is how Adobe will allow you to use your ebooks on both your computer and the iOS device.
4. If you haven’t already, get an ebook that you want to read.
5. Transferring Files
Note: This will only work with iOS 4 or later. If you have an iPad you should already have that, but if you have an older iPhone or iPod, update the OS so that you can transfer files from your computer to the device.
a) Connect your device to your computer.
b) Open iTunes and click on your device. It should look something like this:
Obviously if you have an iPad it will say “iPad” or whatever you named your iPad, etc.
c) On the top-center area of the screen, click Apps. In iTunes on my computer, it looks like this:
d) Scroll down to the “File Sharing” section, which should be at the bottom of the screen. Select the Bluefire Reader app from the list, and click “Add”. On my computer it looks like this:
e) Now you can find the ebook that you want to transfer. If you bought a DRM-protected Adobe PDF or ePub file, it should be in a folder called “My Digital Editions”. Any non-DRM ebooks will be wherever you put them on your computer.
It might sync to your device automatically or you might have to perform a sync on your own. After that you should be able to open Bluefire Reader on your device and see the ebook.
I recommend that you find ePub files rather than PDF whenever possible. It seems that most e-readers and ebook apps display them a lot better because ePub files are reflowable, which means that the text of the book can rearrange itself to accommodate your screen size much easier than in PDF files.
This isn’t directly related to ebook software, but it is a followup to my recent post about Sony’s issues with Apple. As you’ll remember, Apple rejected Sony’s eBook App because it does not allow users to purchase ebooks through Apple (which would give Apple 30% of each sale).
Now, it seems that Sony is threatening to pull all of their music from iTunes.
“SONY has signalled it may withdraw its artists from Apple’s iTunes store and withhold its games from the iPhone in a sign the two companies are on the brink of all-out war.”
Sony plans to offer their music in their own system called Music Unlimited instead, which is already available in Europe and will be available in Australia soon. This is significant because Sony is the world’s second-largest record company, representing a large amount of artists, including Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Bob Dylan. If all of Sony’s artists were pulled from iTunes, Apple’s music market would be a very different place.
“The new Sony music service, which opened in Europe last year, will have a library of 6 million tracks and users will be able to stream songs to Sony TVs, PlayStation3 consoles, PSP portable game players and Blu-Ray players.”
Michael Ephraim from Sony was quoted as saying, “Publishers are being held to ransom by Apple and they are looking for other delivery systems, and we are waiting to see what the next three to five years will hold.”
No matter which side you take, this may end up being quite important in the history of online digital content delivery. As far as ebooks go — we are sure to see much of the market go to Android devices in the upcoming few years, and that will already be outside of Apple’s control. Apple may be left with their usual small fanbase for customers, while everyone else uses the more inexpensive options provided by Sony, Google, and Microsoft.