Amazon today introduced a convoluted system through which its customers are able to search for free samples of books they might wish to read on their iPhone, devour the literary hors d’oeuvres, and then email themselves a link to Amazon’s online store, where they can purchase the full book. At that point it might be easier to just drive to a Barnes & Noble, buy a book, and become one of those people who constantly mutters about how horrible all these gizmos and gadgets are.
Despite its flaws, today’s update marks the first time Kindle users have been able to access the Kindle Store from directly within the app since 2011, when Apple forced Amazon to remove a direct link to the store or be forced out of the App Store. Amazon removed the link and then removed all mention of the Kindle Store, effectively severing the Kindle app from the rest of its ecosystem.
Before today, if you purchased an iPhone and downloaded the Kindle app you would have no idea that you could browse the Kindle Store on your iPhone. Every book had to be purchased through a Web browser and sent to the app separately, forcing customers to jump between apps and devices whenever they wanted to read something new. The update fixes that, but making Kindle users jump through such hoops simply to purchase a new book is a prime example of how politicking can interfere with the experience of using an app.
Amazon could easily build the Kindle Store directly into the Kindle app if it weren’t for the company’s reluctance to give Apple a 30 percent cut of every book sale. Because Amazon already gives a portion of each sale to an ebook’s publisher, however, the company is understandably unwilling to further divide each sale. Providing users with a direct link to the Web version of the store, which falls outside of Apple’s purview, was an acceptable but unideal solution until Apple put the kibosh on that as well.
The current system doesn’t benefit either company. Amazon has to force users through a frustrating process to show them that, yes, the Kindle Store can be accessed from an iPhone. Apple isn’t getting a cut of those sales and is handicapping one of the most popular book-related apps in the App Store. Kindle users are left with an app that can be “significantly improved” by adding a convoluted process that has no place in a world where most items can be purchased with a single click or tap.
[Illustration by Hallie Bateman]