Apple has issued a statement regarding yesterday’s rejection of Sony’s eBook app. While they claim that no changes have been made to the developer terms or guidelines, the policy does, in fact, seem to be new.
“We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines, we are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.” – Trudy Muller, Apple spokesperson
Essentially, Apple will allow companies to offer eBook purchases directly from the provider (for example, Amazon.com), as long as they also offer the same content via in-app purchases—where Apple gets a 30 percent cut. Currently, Amazon’s app offers content by redirecting users to their website for the actual purchase, but even this loophole is now covered.
This could result in a corresponding price hike for eBooks through 3rd party sellers, since 30% is likely their entire profit margin. Alternatively, Apple could exempt specific sellers—like Amazon and Sony—from the price cut, and merely benefit from the additional control of content. It would be unlikely, though possible, for the apps to be removed by their creators if an agreement can’t be met. There isn’t any real benefit for the end user, no matter how you spin it. Apple is simply flexing their muscles.