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Amazon Turns Off In-App Purchases In iOS Comixology 244

Posted by Soulskill
from the their-way-or-the-highway dept.
whisper_jeff writes: "Under the bold assumption that, since they were able to do it with books, they must be able to do it with comics, Amazon has decided to avoid Apple's 30% cut of in app purchases by removing the option from digital comic book platform Comixology for iOS users. It will be interesting to see if digital comic readers leap through the extra hoops to read digital comics on their iOS device or if Amazon has just signed the death knell for their new purchase. Readers may decide that buying a book and buying a comic aren't the same thing — that the extra hoops they're being forced to leap through simply aren't worth it for a comic that takes five minutes to read."
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Amazon Turns Off In-App Purchases In iOS Comixology

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  • Honestly, one of the great things about comixology was being able to quickly buy/download the next comic in the series when I was binge-reading. I have *hundreds* of comics through them, but I'm not sure if I will be buying any more with this new system. The kindle thing was enough of a pain, but at least a book takes a little longer to read.

    I think they've shot themselves in teh foot on this one.

    • I have *hundreds* of comics through them, but I'm not sure if I will be buying any more with this new system.

      Agreed. I have bought hundreds of comics through this app, usually when they are on-sale and/or I'm reading one comic and get hooked and can just use the app to grab the rest of the series or storyline. In-app purchase was key since shopping through the Comixology website was simply not very convenient.

      I completely get why Amazon would want to stick it to Apple with a move like this. What I find to be un-Amazon-like is that they are screwing over their customer experience in order to do it. Say what you will about Amazon, they usually work very hard to ensure that it is as easy as possible for customers to hand them money. Here, they're going in the opposite direction just to take a poke at Apple. Very unlike them, and a decision I hope is rectified with a 3.7 version and a mea culpa soon.

      • by Richy_T (111409) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @02:08AM (#46851539) Homepage

        It's not just taking a poke at apple. Apples fees are egregiously high. Smaller operators may just be forced to suck it up but Amazon is in the position of making a more tactical decision. Not only do they have their own device(s) but Apple is not exactly without other competitors. I guess they feel they're in a position where they can see how it plays out.

        • by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @10:28AM (#46852671)

          More to the point, Amazon have a business plan that means they aim to make no profit, instead they reinvest or subsidise loss making lines with profitable ones, so they can kill other on-line markets and grow towards monopoly on-line market for everything.

          They won't care if comixology is unprofitable for years. For them it's better than letting another on-line market take a cut.

    • by Dahamma (304068) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @02:45AM (#46851617)

      So, you love the service but not enough just to go to a web site and buy it for 30% (or so) less than you have been paying now?

      I can't wait to see more companies rebelling against Apple's ridiculous (and in the case of music, borderline anti-trust) tax on all in-app purchases. The fact is they have priced everyone else but themselves out of the content market on iOS devices since the margin on a lot of content is less than the 30% they take...

      • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @04:09AM (#46851755) Homepage

        So, you love the service but not enough just to go to a web site and buy it for 30% (or so) less than you have been paying now?

        That's a rather optimistic assumption.

        • by Jakeula (1427201) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:57AM (#46851961) Homepage
          I believe the idea here is that comics would cost more when purchasing them on the iOS version due to them having to pay Apple. I read my comics on Android, so I have no clue if there is a price difference. I imagine their 99 cent deals are likely still priced at 99 cents, so I would expect to find that the comics cost exactly the same price on both platforms. Honestly I can see why Amazon would want to change this immediately. Comixology had no ground to oppose Apples charges, but Amazon has the cash to front the costs of this move. I mean, if I just bought a company and a good portion of my purchases came from a platform that charged 30% I would rethink things as well.
    • by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Sunday April 27, 2014 @02:50AM (#46851633)

      Honestly, one of the great things about comixology was being able to quickly buy/download the next comic in the series when I was binge-reading. I have *hundreds* of comics through them, but I'm not sure if I will be buying any more with this new system. The kindle thing was enough of a pain, but at least a book takes a little longer to read.

      I think they've shot themselves in teh foot on this one.

      And you know what? Comixology knew that, that's why they sucked it up and gave Apple the 30% (though to be honest, the wholesale price Comixology paid meant they still made a profit - even raw comic books that sell for $4 probably cost the store $2 or less). Because by making the user jump through hoops to buy it to get that extra 30% means they'll lose the impulse-buy. And impulse-buy is big - for every person willing to jump through a hoop, 10-20 would just do one-click purchasing (just ask Amazon - if One-Click didn't work, why bother suing B&N over it?), making that 30% easily justifiable.

      And no, Amazon won't sell it online any cheaper - they can't. Diamond Comics (the SOLE comic distributor for practically ALL comics worldwide) has a virtual monopoly on it, and they view any reseller that undercuts others (comic stores) very dimly. The only time it doesn't matter is when the items are available through other channels (e.g., most books). But comics are Diamond's property and someone who undercuts may find their orders shorted, especially on items that are often allocated.

    • by gander666 (723553) * on Sunday April 27, 2014 @11:22AM (#46852893) Homepage
      I am not a heavy comic reader, but I always went to the Comixology site to buy rather than the in app purchase. I figured that Comixology deserved the full price, and not the 30% skim that Apple took.
      • I am not a heavy comic reader, but I always went to the Comixology site to buy rather than the in app purchase. I figured that Comixology deserved the full price, and not the 30% skim that Apple took.

        Perhaps, perhaps not. It's a seldom known fact that the cost of sales varies pretty dramataically.

        It's possible (and for many companies, entirely probable) that it's cheaper to pay Apple 30% than to duplicate Apple's efforts. In fact, many are extremely happy that stores are only charging 30% and it saves them money in the end. It doesn't matter the store - Amazon, Google Play (FYI - IAPs in Play Store require Google getting a 30% cut as well), iTunes, Steam. I've seen many prefer "someone else" handle all the nasty billing/taxes/gift cards/etc work.

        After all, it's only a matter of time until some payment processor that your favorite site uses is breached, so that's a genuine concern. Then there's the whole CDN, accounts (how many websites were poorly secured and had breaches, again?), past purchases, etc. stuff that has to be handled.

        Hell, in the end, Comixology could've run the numbers and figured the cost of a sale on their website. It could be break even - they make the same as iTunes via their website. Or perhaps they make more money through iTunes than their website (don't laugh - there are companies who have done the math and realized their cost of sales is higher than 30%).

        Of course, Amazon is a huge company, so if payment processors is a huge chunk of the cost of sales, switching to Amazon would save them a bunch of money now. Of course, if it isn't, then it's just Amazon screwing over iTunes and Google Play users to favor their own App Store, which is also a perfectly valid strategy.

  • by postmortem (906676) on Saturday April 26, 2014 @11:52PM (#46851159) Journal

    If you're mafia, or Apple.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2014 @12:06AM (#46851221)

      Anything that keeps down Apple's extortion, even a bit, is a win in my book. And you can tell that Amazon is doing this _explicitly_ to keep the unearned profits out of Apple's pockets rather than to optimize their own revenue. If all they were concerned about was their bottom line they would offer the in-app purchases at an additional mark-up that covers Apple's 30% and let any customers who value that convenience over the extra cost have at it, while still offering external purchases at current prices. Amazon is by no means a saint either, but a little healthy sibling rivalry and competition can often (though not always) benefit consumers in the long run.

      • by Blaskowicz (634489) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @12:56AM (#46851361)

        To me that's like cheering for Hitler against Staline, or vice versa.
        Apple at least is a company that sells only to high income snobs (and some working class people in the Earth's richest countries). Amazon's motto is to take over everything and destroy retail businesses while setting back the workplace by over 100 years.

        • Amazon is worse? (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 27, 2014 @01:28AM (#46851433)

          That's a VAST oversimplification with a huge "axe to grind against Amazon" and/or "fanboyism of Apple" slant at best.
          Not to mention the whole "setting the workplace back 100 years" is 100% pure BS.
          You're forgetting Wal-Mart already existed long before Amazon even made any significant inroads into anything beyond selling physical books online at good prices and with an unmatched selection and good, though impersonal, service.
          I happen to LIKE seeing companies like Amazon help keep things in check to some degree.

          Face reality, developed countries will never return to the mom & pop corner store days, so if there are at least three or four big companies vying for each market, that's a heck of a lot better than only one or two since neither monopolies nor duopolies tend to work out very well for consumers. I don't want Amazon to rule the world, but I sure as heck don't want Apple or Facebook or Google or Wal-Mart to either. It's good for someone to put Apple in their place from time to time.

      • by rabtech (223758) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:48PM (#46855443) Homepage

        Apple handles the billing, customer service, credit card merchant fees, runs gift card programs, provides a CDN to deliver both the app and downloadable content, and provides access to a captive market.

        Paypal or merchant account require you to handle the charging, refunds, paperwork, etc. You also need to find your own addressable market. And run your own gift cards if you want bank-less people or kids to be able to purchase. And setup your own CDN. Depending on the situation you may need to pay commissions to sales people too. You'll be on the hook for currency conversions and setting up with the various banks, government entities, filing the paperwork, etc to make sure you comply with all local business laws in over 100 countries.

        Apple is providing a service and 30% is a steal compared to most publishing agreements in the history of the world. They also don't cut side deals with large developers for a lower cut, meaning you and I are on the same level as Amazon and Microsoft. If you think large retailers pay the same merchant fees as the small guys you are badly mistaken. The big guys also have lawyers on staff to deal with filing paperwork and tax forms.

    • by whisper_jeff (680366) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @12:17AM (#46851277)

      Or Google. https://support.google.com/goo... [google.com]

      And virtually everyone else that offers payment processing services

      Sorry - you were attempting to imply that Apple was akin to the Mafia because they charge the same rate as everyone else for the same service. As you were.

      • by Gavagai80 (1275204) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @12:43AM (#46851341) Homepage

        And virtually everyone else that offers payment processing services

        Only in mobile app walled gardens. PayPal, 2checkout, authorize.net etc only take about 3%.

        • by maccodemonkey (1438585) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @04:12AM (#46851767)

          And virtually everyone else that offers payment processing services

          Only in mobile app walled gardens. PayPal, 2checkout, authorize.net etc only take about 3%.

          Bandwidth is cheap, so it's not a total excuse, but PayPal doesn't actually fulfill the entire transaction, just the payment. Apple hosts IAP content.

    • by maccodemonkey (1438585) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @04:11AM (#46851759)

      If you're mafia, or Apple.

      Or Amazon in this case.

      What, you think they're passing 100% of the profits to the comic book publisher? Hah!

      I'd bet they're going to take the 30% that Apple used to take, and stuff it right back in their own pockets, right along with any other existing fees.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @12:14AM (#46851259)

    To just let people buy it in store but make it 10% cheaper if bought directly on Amazon? People would instantly feel very smart if they jumped the hoops because it's CHEAPER and they're SAVING.

  • by Chuckstar (799005) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @01:06AM (#46851381)

    Just make the mobile web site work well, and it's hardly jumping through hoops. Someone mentioned how easy it used to be to buy the next issue in-app. Just make is so when you go on the web site, the next issue is right there waiting for you to buy it (the app can report back which issues you've finished). It would add all of 15 seconds to the purchase process.

    I understand there's still a hoop there, but they don't have to be holding it very far off the ground, and it's certainly not on fire. They could easily make it a little hop, not a huge jump.

  • by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @02:30AM (#46851573)

    In-App purchases for Comixology haven't worked properly for me for ages, so I've always tended to buy via the website anyway.

    What I'd really like them to do is automatically download subscriptions when my iPad is plugged in and on WiFi. And also keep downloading when the screen turns itself off, under the same conditions.

  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @05:31AM (#46851895)
    There's a vastly depressing humor in all of this: both sides are monopolistic scum, so the least you can do is enjoy watching the evil twins fight amongst themselves. It's a really grim joke.

    The 30% "tax" that Apple charges at the App Store is immune to market forces. It makes no difference what sells or how much, Apple gets a phenomenal markup. It's all reward, no risk. When this happens at a large scale it means that capitalism is dead, and all the remains is monopoly.

    And before the ideological right zombies start chanting "free market" in unison, remember that there is a duopoly: Android and IOS. Now that Blackberry is toast (pun intended), there is only a choice between a closed overly priced ecosystem and an anarchistic platform that is known to be insecure. I don't have the reference at hand, but someone at Google recently stated that security is not guaranteed for Android. Google washes their hands, and the phone providers (another tribe of monopolists) see no need to put any money into customer protection. The big cellular providers want it to be a felony to jailbreak your smartphone. They literally want to threaten users in jail for doing their own patches, so good luck on fixing that security breach on your own. Capitalism at it's best. A real "free market".

    Amazon is also a real piece of work. Their business model is all about not paying any tax to anybody anywhere anytime. See post that proceeds this about them owing the French government $1 Billion.

    The inequality between the taxation of brick and mortar stores and Amazon gives them a huge competitive advantage. The playing field is a level as a cliff. Amazon is at the top, their competitors are at the bottom and Amazon getd rocks for free to drop off the cliff.

    Amazon also has the publishers in a headlock. They dictate how much the publishers can charge before the Amazon markup. They also demand, and get, exclusivity on Kindle over other platforms.

    Both Amazon and Apple engage in the kind of "free market capitalism" that made the Soprano's famous: pay us or you won't be around very much longer. They have the same relationship with the market that a pig farmer has to his pigs. The pigs have very little say in the matter.

    • by asylumx (881307) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @08:57AM (#46852321)

      Both Amazon and Apple engage in the kind of "free market capitalism" that made the Soprano's famous: pay us or you won't be around very much longer. They have the same relationship with the market that a pig farmer has to his pigs. The pigs have very little say in the matter.

      Actually, I think the overall idea is more akin to renting a booth at a bazaar or flea market. The fact they are charging you to use their infrastructure doesn't seem all that bad. The 30% seems over the top to me and the extra rules they have in place to try to force you to use their infrastructure is the part that looks like racketeering.

      The question to ask is: do most developers deal with these factors because it's worth 30%, or do they deal with it because they don't have another option? If it's the latter, then it's not capitalism that we're seeing here. Amazon appears to be trying to prove that there is another way.

    • by Sandor at the Zoo (98013) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @10:10AM (#46852607)
      The previous article you refer to concerns Google owing $1B, not Amazon. I don't disagree with the rest of your screed.
    • The 30% "tax" that Apple charges at the App Store is immune to market forces.

      How so? End users could always choose to switch to platforms that don't charge such tax.

      remember that there is a duopoly: Android and IOS.

      Both Google Play devices and Fire OS devices support Unknown sources. This allows Android to have multiple stores, and Amazon runs one of them.

      I don't have the reference at hand, but someone at Google recently stated that security is not guaranteed for Android.

      Could you please dig up the reference for us? Besides, in products for home use, security is practically never proven. Neither iOS nor Android has a published audit using formal methods [wikipedia.org].

      Their business model is all about not paying any tax to anybody anywhere anytime.

      When Caesar leaves loopholes, you'd have to have an intellectual disability not to use them [wikipedia.org].

  • by drolli (522659) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @07:29AM (#46852105) Journal

    I could imagine that a flat-fee per month could serve them and theirs customers well.

  • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Sunday April 27, 2014 @03:28PM (#46854085)

    And advertise all the prices as "$7 + $3 Apple Tax"

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