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Two Years Later And Amazon Still Blocks Competitors' Reading Apps

Did youscribd-logo-blk_100x28 catch the news today about Scribd?

They put out a press release this morning touting their new reading app for the Kindle Fire, which can be downloaded from the Scribd website.  The new app has all the features as the current Android app (including access to the 4 month old subscription ebook service), along with a few technical adjustments to adapt it for the Fire.

I almost didn’t report on the story, given that there is an Android app and it has long since been available in the Amazon Appstore, but then I read Teleread’s coverage and decided the larger story was worth a post. You see, Scribd is hosting the new app on their website because they can’t make it available in the Amazon Appstore:

We submitted the Scribd app several times to Amazon over the past three months, but did not receive a response to our requests, so we decided to publish it directly, making it available to everyone.

This comes as no surprise; Amazon has been blocking their competitors' reading apps ever since they launched the first model 2 years ago.

I noticed, shortly after getting the original Kindle Fire, that Amazon was blocking the Nook, Aldiko, Kobo, and other reading apps from showing up in the Appstore on the KF.

And just to be clear, Amazon was blocking apps which would otherwise work just fine on the Kindle Fire – just like the Scribd app mentioned above.

Sure, you can find the apps elsewhere and download them from other sites and install them, but by blocking the apps in the Appstore Amazon is probably discouraged a majority of users from getting the apps and installing them on a Kindle Fire. It’s just too much effort.

Those apps are still blocked today, with a couple exceptions. The Wattpad app is available on the Kindle Fire, and so is the OverDrive Media Console app.


Well, Amazon has never explained their actions, but it’s pretty clear that Amazon doesn’t want you to spend ebook money elsewhere. I’m not sure why Amazon decided this, but if you check the Appstore you will see that this policy extends to Bluefire Reader, Aldiko, Moon+, and many others. Curiously enough, the policy doesn’t extend to Hulu, Netflix, or any other media app, most of which are listed in the Amazon Appstore as being compatible with my Kindle Fire HD.

The double standard policy is puzzling, yes, but it looks like it has had some success in stymying Amazon’s competition. For example, Amazon’s restrictions were such a bother for Bluefire that they posted a copy of their Epub app on their website in early 2012.

And then there’s the Nook app and the Kobo app. Neither app is available in the Amazon Appstore anymore, even though they were present when the Kindle Fire launched in late 2011. I know both were available at one time, but neither can be found today. That raises some interesting questions, I think.

Update: I was half wrong on this point. B&N reports that their app was never in the Amazon Appstore. But I know for a fact Kobo’s app was listed at one point.

Did Amazon actively remove the competing apps, or did Amazon use a more subtle "ignore them until they go away" trick and simply not approve the app updates?

I don’t know, but given how Amazon is behaving towards competing reading apps, either option is possible. Sadly, I probably won’t be able to find out the truth; this is a topic that almost no one is willing to discuss on the record.

If anyone wants to talk off the record, you know where to find me.

P.S. Another unrelated point worth noting here is the apparent double standard between Amazon and Apple. One quietly blocked apps, while the other publicly slapped around their competition. It’s interesting how one got all the attention while the other got almost no coverage at all.

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flyingtoastr January 29, 2014 um 11:35 pm

Amazon is anti-consumer but has a RDF far and beyond what Apple commands. Nothing new here.

Nate Hoffelder January 29, 2014 um 11:51 pm

If this is anti-consumer then in comparison Apple wants to harvest my organs and B&N wants to sell me into slavery.

fjtorres January 30, 2014 um 6:28 am

It is petty but it is neither anti-consumer nor, given Amazon’s low market share, illegal.
Given that most of the apps in question are free (and generate no income for Amazon) they are under no obligation to carry them.
And since Amazon takes no steps to block the installation of the apps anybody who wants the app can install it on their own.
Petty but within the rules. The policy has been in place from day one so FIRE owners have always known what to expect. Apple got pushback because they changed the game mid-stream on consumers. Losing a capability is more annoying than never having it.

Whateveragain January 30, 2014 um 8:04 am

An excellent reason not to buy an Amazon tablet. Much better to buy a stock, open tablet and install any app you want (incl. the kindle app).

Greg Freed January 30, 2014 um 9:16 am

Articles like this (the underlying question) are why you’re one of my favorite industry news sources. I thought I would point out, though, that most of the reader apps you mentioned are available in the Amazon Apps for Android store:

Sorry if this was a misread of your article on my part.

Nate Hoffelder January 30, 2014 um 10:08 am

I clarified the post by adding phrases like "showing up in the Appstore on the Kindle Fire".

Juli Monroe January 30, 2014 um 10:38 am

I’d wondered when someone else would notice this, and it didn’t surprise me that I was you. (DBW didn’t publish something about it until this morning.) I’d considered a rant against Amazon in my article, but I decided against it. You did an excellent job and said pretty much everything I would have. Thanks!

Nate Hoffelder January 30, 2014 um 11:16 am

Welcome. And thank you for making it easy with that quote.

George January 30, 2014 um 11:27 am

When I buy a walled garden tablet, I don’t expect to be able to use competitor’s apps or other services. And not everyone wants a stock, open tablet either.

Anyway, expecting Amazon to allow competing apps out of the goodness of their hearts is like expecting Walmart to allow you to use their gifts cards at Target. Or something like that.

All that being said, I was able to install the Nook app on my Kindle Fire last night & it seems to be working great. Just had to download the file & install it that way. A bit more difficulty trying to get Kobo & Sony on there as most places direct you to the Google Play store & the Play Store won’t let you directly download the app file, they want you to install directly to one of the devices you own & for some reason they don’t list my Kindle Fire as one of my available devices. Funny that.

fjtorres January 30, 2014 um 11:51 am

The nook and kobo apps, as well as fbreader and coolreader among others, are available via 1mobile. Just browse to their website, install their market app, and search for whatever you want.

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