Amazon launches Kindle Cloud Reader to side-step App Store
10th Aug 2011 | 09:42
While Apple heads to court over ebook price fixing
Amazon has launched the Kindle Cloud Reader, a web-based ebook application that is "optimised for iPad".
It's a very sneaky way of working around Apple's new App Store rules that bans iOS apps from linking out to external stores – which meant that Amazon couldn't sell any Kindle ebooks to its iPhone and iPad app owners from their devices.
But the web app doesn't need to jump through the App Store's hoops. It still allows you to read your new and already-purchased Kindle books in an app-style interface on an iPad or download them for reading offline, but also means you can buy new books direct from the Kindle store.
Sadly, iPhone users won't be able to take advantage of the web app just yet; but the fact that Amazon name checks the iPhone on the Cloud Reader homepage gives us hope that there's an iPhone-compatible version in the works.
If Apple's annoyed about the Kindle Cloud Reader web app, it'll have to file it under 'quash later' as it deals with another ebook niggle; the company has been named in a US lawsuit over ebook price fixing.
Filed in San Francisco, the suit accuses Apple of working with major publishers to control pricing, naming Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster, which collectively control around 85 per cent of popular fiction and non-fiction titles.
Apple and the named publishers have been working an agency pricing model, whereby publishers become the book sellers and Apple takes a slice of the sales (30 per cent).
This means that the publisher-as-bookseller sets the price of a book at whatever it fancies and all other retailers of that ebook have to fall in line; because Apple takes such a huge chunk of the profit, the pricing is alleged to be higher than it otherwise would be.
The lawsuit claims that publishers "would simply deny Amazon access to the title" if it tried to sell an ebook at below the publisher-set price."
It seems that the plaintiffs are very pro-Amazon, with the lawsuit complaint also alleging "that Apple believed that it needed to neutralise the Kindle when it entered the ebook market with its own e-reader, the iPad, and feared that one day the Kindle might challenge the iPad by digitally distributing other media like music and movies."
The anti-competitive nature of the agency price model is already under some serious scrutiny in the UK as well, with the Office of Fair Trading investigating the way that ebooks are priced.