Apple to book readers: Our way or the highway

July 27, 2011, 11:20 AM UTC

Over the weekend, the Kindle, Nook and Google Books apps got crippled. Thanks, Steve.

Source: SplatF

“The fact is,” Steve Jobs famously told the
New York Times
in 2008, trying to convince them that Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle was a nonstarter, “that people don’t read books anymore.”

What Jobs really meant, we discover three years later, is that people don’t get to read books on his iPads or iPhones unless they buy them from his iBookstore.

In the past few days, Apple (AAPL) made good on the threat it issued in February when it revealed its so-called “subscription model.” Publishers and book resellers that wanted to do business on the App Store had to fork over 30% of every sale or take their business elsewhere. Putting a button on an app that took readers out of the App Store to make a purchase — as Amazon, Barnes & Noble (BKS) and Google (GOOG) had been doing — would, as of June 30, no longer be permitted. (See: Steve Jobs to pubs: Our way or highway.)

Profit margins being what they are in the book business, 30% was never going to fly. So rather than abandon the App Store entirely, the major third-party book-buying apps — Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Google Books etc. — disappeared and came back with their easy-to-use buttons removed. (See SplatF‘s Kindle screenshots, above.)

As someone who has purchased and read several dozen books on the Kindle app in the past year, I have to say that this sucks. The Amazon bookstore on the iPad was a reader’s paradise: A enormous library with open shelves that let you browse at will, check reviews and more often than not read the first chapter for free. Without that Kindle Store button, however, I suspect many users — if not most — will have no idea how to get started.

Apple clearly wants me to switch to its iBooks app and buy from its iBookstore. That’s its prerogative. Last time I checked, however, Apple’s selection was nowhere near as extensive as Amazon’s. It may be bigger now. It may even let me read free samples. I’m too frustrated and disheartened to check. I think I may have to buy a Kindle instead. I understand that Amazon has sold millions of them. They start at $139 , or $114 for the model that displays ads when you’re not reading. You can get one here