Two Years Later And Amazon Still Blocks Competitors' Reading Apps
Did you 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.
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.