If you were an avid reader of Amazon Kindle books on your Android device, you’re in for some bad news, as Amazon has removed the option to buy ebooks using the Android Kindle app. When you try to purchase ebooks on the Amazon app on Android, you’re now directed to a new screen explaining why the purchasing option is gone. If you happen to update the app, you’ll see a similar note as to what you see on an iOS device that says purchasing digital products on the app is unavailable.
This has happened because Google has now mandated that all apps use their own billing system and will take a 30% cut out of each transaction. Considering Amazon is the largest ebook seller in the world, the paid commission to Google would be staggering. Amazon is the latest company to suspend digital transactions on Android. In recent weeks Audible and Barnes and Noble ceased selling audiobooks and ebooks in their apps. Amazon now directs users to its website in order to buy books
Why can’t Amazon Kindle just continue to sell books on Android and just pay Google the 30% commission on each title sold?
This is because anyone who operates a bookstore and stocks it with digital content from major publishers is acting as an agent for the publisher. Major publishers such as Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon, and Shuster, and Penguin Random House set the prices of an ebook and all retailers have to sell it at that specific price, this is known as agency pricing.
Publishers implemented this system in 2015, when Amazon basically set their own prices and took a loss on every title sold, in order to spur Kindle adoption. The purpose of agency pricing is to level the playing field so nobody has a pricing advantage. This means, the profit for each title sold, is rather small, Amazon sells millions of ebooks a month, so they make lots of money through sheer scale. If Amazon paid Google the 30% of each ebook sold, they would take a loss on every single title, this is why they disabled in-app purchases.
It will be interesting to see how Amazon handles requests for refunds from all of its users who suddenly find themselves without access to a library of books they paid for. We’re hoping that Amazon either reverses its decision or offers an easy solution for users who have already downloaded these apps so they can still read their books offline.
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