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Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo bow to Apple sales edict

Wall Street Journal, Google knuckle under as well

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Booksellers Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo have removed links to their web-based stores from their apps for the iPhone and iPad, and the Google Books app has vanished completely.

In February, Apple issued an edict that required all apps offering content for sale or subscription to do so through the App Store, and not through external links to the seller's web store. In addition, it required 30 per cent of the take from any sales made through an iOS app to be deposited in Cupertino's coffers.

The policy was to take effect by June 30, but the booksellers' apps continued to include links to their online stores. Until now.

Kindle for iPhone, before and after Apple-ordered removal of 'Kindle Store' button

Kindle's iPhone app yesterday (left) and today (right) – notice anything missing on the right?

Barnes & Noble's iPhone app's App Store listing was updated Monday, and now notes: "You can read any NOOK Book you have purchased on this updated NOOK for iPhone app, however the Shop link has been removed so to buy NOOK Books from your iPhone, open your Safari browser and go to nookbooks.com."

The new App listing for Kobo's app, updated on Saturday, is more concise: "We have removed the Kobo Store from within the application. You can continue to shop at our website." Amazon's Kindle listing, also updated on Monday, is brevity itself: "This update removes the Kindle Store button from the app."

Kobo CEO Mike Serbinis told The Wall Street Journal that he had been contacted by Apple on Saturday and told that the link had to go – and the Canadian bookseller quickly complied.

For its part, the WSJ is also preparing to remove subscription links from its iPad app – and they're not happy about it.

"We remain concerned that Apple's own subscription [rules] would create a poor experience for our readers, who would not be able to directly manage their WSJ account or to easily access our content across multiple platforms," their spokeswoman said.

Apple has backed down a bit from its February edicit. In June, for example, it dropped the requirement that items or subscriptions sold through the App Store must cost the same or less than the same content offered from the provider's own website.

It has also allowed some magazines – Sports Illustrated, Time, and Fortune, for starters – to provide digital copies of their rags to subscribers of their hard-copy versions. As wacky as it may sound, before that change, a mag subscriber had to pay separately for a digital copy.

But this weekend's events and Monday's app changes make it clear that Apple is not backing down on its "no online links" policy when it comes to booksellers. ®

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