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Is Apple Using Harry Potter to Strong-Arm Google?

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Apple has made it very clear that, as rulers of the iOS kingdom, they are going to own the entire economy. As 9to5 Mac reported, Google Books has vanished from the iOS AppStore – and any old Muggle can figure out why.

Google Books, incidentally, is set to become the sole platform for the upcoming digital versions of the Harry Potter series, and Apple appears to be using their new terms of service to try to spoil the search giant’s Potter party.

Background

This all started earlier this year, when Apple introduced their new in-app purchase rules. These new rules granted the company a 30% cut on all iOS in-app transactions. In order to prevent easy work-arounds, Apple decided they weren’t going to allow apps that provide a link to open the web browser and make those same purchases or subscriptions.

... and he thought Voldemort was a tough cookie.

Then earlier this month, it was announced that the long-anticipated digital versions of the Harry Potter series, which will be purchased from author J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore website, would be stored in the Google eBooks platform.

As Google Books integrates into most mobile and desktop platforms, this works out well for Rowling. It prevents her from giving a cut of the profits to anyone (Google doesn’t take a slice off the top) – yet it still makes them widely available.

Though Google isn’t directly profiting off of the Potter series, their young eBook store is set to explode. It’s a great deal for both parties.

The only problem with that is that the Google Books app was in violation of Apple’s new rules. The “Get eBooks” button on the app’s main screen points users straight to the Google eBook Store in Safari, where they can purchase from Google’s extensive library.

We had previously speculated whether the Amazon Kindle app would get yanked (as it too links to the Kindle website for eBook purchases), but it is still in the store – despite not being updated. While it is only (logical) speculation, it appears that enforcing the in-app tariff became more urgent for Apple with the Potter series coming.

So what is Apple trying to do here? Their rival hit the Harry Potter lottery, and they didn’t. The app that will serve as their rival’s means of delivering the books to the iPad isn’t complying with their terms. So they’re doing the corporate equivalent of throwing eggs at the house of the guy who got the girl.

But before we completely villainize Apple here, it’s important to remember that they are within their rights to police the commerce on their platform. Whether you like their Mafia/IRS approach or not, they created the platform, they own it, and anyone who wants to be a part of it has to play by their rules. While some may sneer at their approach, it’s hard to see many other companies doing different if they were in Apple’s powerful position.

Maybe Severus Snape would know how to handle this...

This is, however, one reason that we would like to see Android tablets fare better than they have thus far. As much as we love our Apple iDevices, competition has a way of keeping companies from doing things like demanding a 30% cut just for the privilege of doing business on their platform.

What This Means

Assuming that Apple did use the Terms of Service to justify the booting, all Google would have to do would be to remove the link to their web store for the app to be returned. Google’s app would be there for reading and syncing purchases, but there could be no mention of how to make those purchases from within the app.

This would be annoying and inconvenient for Google, but not likely earth-shattering. As Rowling’s books can only be purchased through Pottermore anyway, this has no effect on the distribution of the Potter series (provided they make the changes Apple is demanding).

But it will lessen Google Books’ overall growth on iOS. While many could easily figure out how to open Safari and go to google.com/ebooks, others wouldn’t. Some would just prefer to go with the app that makes shopping the easiest – iBooks.

Apple's new consultant?

What’s next?

With the Kindle app still providing one of the forbidden external purchase links, this leaves Google looking like the guys with “the complicated bookstore.” If I’m Joe eBook-Reader, I don’t want the book app that gives me a couple of extra steps. I’m going with the easiest one. Apple has set up iOS’ rules in a way that makes sure only iBooks can be “the easy one.”

However, Google Books is still in a good position. Their app is still set to be the only (legal) way readers can get Harry Potter books in a digital format. Google Books won’t take off as much as if they could have left their web store’s link in the app, but their platform is still guaranteed to grow… as long as they get their app reinstated.

It looks like what we’re seeing is the downside to the Potter deal for Google. Sure, they get digital Harry Potter, but the whole arrangement is riding on their app’s availability on all platforms (you can bet J.K. Rowling wants the millions of iOS users to be able to buy her books). That opens the door to these kinds of power games from Apple. And unfortunately for Google, it looks like the only defense against those dark arts is to play ball with Cupertino’s Voldemort-like terms.

Having previously written for Android Central and Android Police, Will is shifting his focus to iOS at GottaBeMobile (without neglecting his old pal Android, of course). He lives in Chicago with his wife, Jess, and is on Twitter at @willshanklin

26 Comments

  1. Gordigor

    07/23/2011 at 9:57 pm

    What an incredibly poorly researched article.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-30686_3-20081521-266/google-books-and-kindle-to-get-harry-potter-series/

    ‘Rowling has been clear from the start that she wants the books to be
    available on a wide range of e-reader platforms. But the digital
    versions of the books will be sold exclusively through Pottermore, which
    is set to debut in October. This means that consumers will have to
    purchase the book through the Pottermore site and then select the
    e-reader format they’d like to use.

    Google said in its announcement that it’s also been selected as a
    “preferred third party payment platform for purchases made on
    Pottermore.com.” This means that shoppers will be able to pay using
    Google Checkout or a credit card.’
    Go to Pottermore.com, select the book you want and the e-reader. Bam! Reading Harry Potter on your Ipad through iBookstore or whatever Apple calls their book app.

    • Guest

      07/24/2011 at 4:01 am

      Dude, he worked hard for this, I bet you couldn’t do that good in your life! SO SHUT UP!

    • Speoples26

      07/24/2011 at 12:20 pm

      What a incredibly poor comment that REPEATS EVERYTHING THAT WAS SAID IN THE ARTICLE DUMBASS!!!

    • Speoples26

      07/24/2011 at 12:20 pm

      What a incredibly poor comment that REPEATS EVERYTHING THAT WAS SAID IN THE ARTICLE DUMBASS!!!

      • Jtbaynum

        07/24/2011 at 7:03 pm

        I read this article as saying “You can go to the Google ebook store to buy the Harry Potter series.” As in your transaction will take place on the Google ebookstore domain with the Google logo and styling on the page. So no, this comment is not repeating what this article is saying. This comment points out that all google has is a “Google checkout” button on the Pottermore page which is just an alternative credit card like Paypal. All purchases still go through Pottermore website and is not on any 3rd party ebookstore. This means that Harry Potter books WILL be available for the iPad regardless of the app restrictions on Google’s ebookstore app.

        • Sirus121

          07/25/2011 at 2:30 am

          The purchases go through Google Checkout if the person chooses, but the other part of the agreement was that Google Books would also be the default delivery method for the iPad. Instead of downloading a book, and trying to figure out how to add it to iBooks (which most people have never done) all they have to do is click the Google Books button and it will automatically be in their library. Obviously this plan fails if Google Books isn’t in the App Store. 

          But really, you should be really careful calling any article ‘poorly researched’ because odds are they spent more time preparing and writing about the article than you have, and that despite how much you think you know you’re probably wrong. You better be damn sure you’re write before you try to correct paople on the internet, it just makes you look like an idiot. 

          http://booksearch.blogspot.com/2011/07/pottermore-and-google-team-up-to-enable.html

        • Gordigor

          07/25/2011 at 4:34 pm

          Sirus121, the article you provided says exactly what my comment describes.
          ” When you buy a Harry Potter ebook from Pottermore, you will be able to choose to keep it in your Google Books library in-the-cloud, as well as on other e-reading platforms.” Note the important part, as well as on other e-reading platforms.

          The author of the article tries to imply that use can ONLY use Google Books to get the books. I’ve research this ever since the announcement. Since it will be available to other e-reading platforms, including Kindle and iOS, Pottermore.com will deliver it to whatever your platform’s ‘cloud’. . After purchasing the book, it shows up on the platform you choose (sync). I’m not at all fond of Apple, but the author suggests Apple will make the user jump through more hoops to get the books, The books will absolutely not need to be transferred via Google Books. It has been documented not only buy the author herself, but several news sites.

      • Jtbaynum

        07/24/2011 at 7:03 pm

        I read this article as saying “You can go to the Google ebook store to buy the Harry Potter series.” As in your transaction will take place on the Google ebookstore domain with the Google logo and styling on the page. So no, this comment is not repeating what this article is saying. This comment points out that all google has is a “Google checkout” button on the Pottermore page which is just an alternative credit card like Paypal. All purchases still go through Pottermore website and is not on any 3rd party ebookstore. This means that Harry Potter books WILL be available for the iPad regardless of the app restrictions on Google’s ebookstore app.

  2. Tim

    07/23/2011 at 10:14 pm

    “two steps more than what iOS users are accustomed to” – the unexamined life is not worth living

  3. quillaja

    07/24/2011 at 3:39 am

    Non-issue.

  4. Anonymous

    07/24/2011 at 3:53 am

    There’s another option. Make it an Android differentiator. “From a Harry Potter ebook to a YouTube flash video, if you’re on an iPad or iPhone, there are no easy options. For phone and tablet wizardry, choose Android.

  5. Anonymous

    07/24/2011 at 6:12 am

    @HildyJ, Yep, you just hit the nail on its head. In any case, the open Android has taken over the phone world and latest estimates show that the platform has captured 30% of the tablet world… today 30% tomorrow 80%. Let the Apple snobs live in their make believe world.

    • Sirus121

      07/25/2011 at 2:36 am

      This is a retarded comment. Can I use an Apple product without being an Apple snob? Why do I have to be so closed minded as that? You act like you won’t be happy unless Android crushes Apple and puts them out of business. What kind of person are you that your happiness depends so much on bad mouthing and taking away things that other people enjoy? I don’t understand where all this blind hatred comes from, it is completely ignorant. I for one hope both platforms flourish to give people more options for something they like. I am also educated enough to realize that while yes, there are a few ‘Android Snobs’ like yourself, and some ‘Apple Snobs’, the large majority of users have no dedication to the platform itself, or adverse reactions to the competition, they just happen to use a product they like, because they are rational, mature adults.

      Does anything I may or may not do on my iPad and/or iPhone lessen the experience you would have on a different platform? *Hint: The answer is no*

      • Robbie Burns

        07/29/2011 at 10:07 am

        We’re Apple Snobs because we’ve even purchased Apple products. I will admit myself as an Apple Snob, as my school required the purchase of an Macbook Pro, but anyone who willingly buys Apple products is buying for branding. They’re far more expensive and less powerful than other alternatives. Apple fanboys will argue to the death that Apple provides a superior product, but it’s just not true. There are better tablets out there. Better smartphones, better laptops. Sadly, I could have spent half the price to get the same specs on any other brand of laptop.

        So it’s not really blind hatred. It’s the fact that anything article with Apple mentioned in it has people who are going to argue forever about how Apple makes products of a greater quality than anything else out there. People get pissed because it’s not true. I like my Macbook, I like the iPhone I owned. But there are better options. And you’re wrong, there’s a terribly large dedicated user base for Apple products. 

        And yes, there are experiences that are lessened on an iPhone because Apple has worked so hard to maximize profits that they’ve sealed iOS off from a large portion of useful apps and features. Flash is the perfect example. People have to go to great lengths to get anything flash on their iPhone because Apple has an interest in a flash rival. Forget that Flash is a better option for developers (people will argue this, but if it wasn’t developers wouldn’t use it) Apple doesn’t care. They care about dollars and have found a nice market of people who want trendy over the best option. That’s why people get mad. Plus they’re usually people who were on Apple platforms before Apple alienated them by ripping away some app that was causing no harm for reasons they won’t tell anyone. It happens all of the time.

  6. Anonymous

    07/24/2011 at 2:25 pm

    nice article

  7. Christian Ross

    07/24/2011 at 9:53 pm

    I paid $32.69 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Sony laptop for $94.87 being delivered to our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $51.77 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff, LiveCent.com

  8. Sandeep Deshpande

    07/25/2011 at 8:35 am

    so when will Apple remove kindle too?

  9. R. Mansfield

    07/25/2011 at 6:12 pm

    The Kindle app and the Nook app were updated for iOS today. Neither have a link to their store anymore. That makes this entire article a bit of a moot point. I’m certain that Google can adjust their app and get back in.

  10. Alan Robertson

    07/30/2011 at 7:05 am

    Your article is now out of date – the Kindle app has had it’s in-app purchase option removed.

  11. Anonymous

    08/06/2011 at 10:16 am

    Apples demands here are short-sighted and foolish.
    They control that market right now.
    To demand 30% from everyone for everything is simply too much of a demand to make.
    People have talked about amazon maybe responding or this or that.
    Well – with this state of affairs apple has left the entire world with no choice but to respond.
    And they all need to respond with one goal – to rip market control away from apple.

    You can demand a bit from people for a long time and while they might be annoyed about it, it still might be the easiest and cheapest thing for them to just play along and pay it.
    Here apple has demanded so much that they will ruin the profits and business of many companies.
    They have forced a response against themselves.

    Utter stupidity.

    This is the same thing facebook (and twitter) have done with google.
    Google would have been happy enough for along time yet if they could have just been allowed to play along and run their searches.
    They might have tried this or that social a bit…
    But being locked out and seeing the growing share of traffic those companies are taking…
    Well – know they’ve got google full-bore guns blazing on their asses.
    And that probably was not smart.

    These are essentially pearl harbor scenarios.
    Seems like a great idea at the time.

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