Many audio book and e-book companies are at a crossroads. Google recently introduced a new policy whereby a developer making over $1 million a year will charge 30% for every piece of digital content sold. Subscriptions will only be 15%, so we’ll likely see a surge in unlimited reading apps. This puts the blame on Amazon, which has razor-thin margins for book sales, and they could stop selling on their Google Play Android app and turn it into a consumer-only app.
There is a historical context for this. About a decade ago, Apple decided to handle all in-app transactions through its own billing system and started charging 30% on everything sold. Amazon decided to stop offering all sales through its iOS app and turned it into a dedicated reading app. There were no book recommendations or links to the Amazon page to buy. Instead, users had to visit their local Amazon website in an internet browser, purchase the Kindle book, reopen the app, sync for new purchases, and then it was possible to read the book. The same is happening with Android now, Amazon will lose user data as all transactions will be handled by Google and not Amazon.
Amazon has an ace up its sleeve. You basically have two Android apps. One is available on Google Play and the other is optimized for FireOS. If you have a Fire tablet, that’s a different app, Amazon handles all billing and content delivery, not a third party like Google. If Amazon doesn’t offer in-app transactions on its Google Play app, it could potentially boost sales for its Fire tablets.
Amazon owns Audible, and yesterday the company announced that it will no longer sell audiobooks through its Android app and will only charge for subscriptions with varying credit amounts. If you want to buy individual audiobooks, you’ll need to visit the Audible website, buy something, and then sync it to the app. That makes financial sense for Audible, but not for consumers.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audio books and e-readers for twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.