You can no longer buy Kindle books on Android

Amazon has disabled the ability to purchase e-books in the Kindle app for Android. When trying to purchase digital books, a new screen is displayed letting customers know that in order to stay current with changes to Google’s policy, the purchase of e-books is no longer supported. This happened because Google has now commanded that all apps use its own billing system and will deduct 30% of each transaction. Given that Amazon is the largest seller of e-books in the world, the commission paid to Google would be amazing. Amazon is the latest company to suspend digital transactions on Android, and in recent weeks Audible and Barnes and Noble have stopped selling audiobooks and e-books in their apps.

Amazon withdrew the ability to purchase digital books in its iOS app in 2011, when Apple implemented a similar policy, forcing companies to use its own billing system. With Apple users getting richer and buying most of the content, this was a serious blow. To get around this problem, Amazon developed Kindle Cloud Reader, which was designed to work with Safari and allowed people to purchase books and read them directly in the browser. Then Amazon doubled down on its official Android app. They did this because Google didn’t effectively force everyone to use their own billing system, and this really worked for about ten years. That all changed, when Google announced in 2021 that it would begin requiring all apps to use its billing system by June 1, 2022. Google said it would remove apps that don’t comply with the rules of its billing system.

Why can’t Amazon continue to sell books on Android and pay Google 30% commission on every book sold? This is because anyone who runs a bookstore and stocks it with digital content from major publishers acts as an agent for the publisher. Major publishers such as Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon and Shuster, and Penguin Random House have set prices for the e-book and all retailers must sell it at that set price, this is known as agency pricing. Publishers only implemented this system about 7 years ago, when Amazon essentially set their own prices, losing every title sold, in order to spur Kindle adoption. The purpose of agency pricing is to level the playing field so that no one has a pricing advantage. This means that the profit for each title sold is rather meager, as Amazon sells millions of e-books per month, so it makes a lot of money through the sheer volume. If Amazon pays Google 30% of every e-book sold, they lose every title, which is why they’ve disabled in-app purchases.

Buying e-books in the Kindle app is a serious blow to readers. It is now impossible to purchase e-books using the Kindle app on any mobile operating system. The Kindle app has essentially been turned into a pure reading app rather than a gateway to making purchases. To read books on the Kindle app for Android, you’ll need to log into your Amazon account using your computer or mobile internet browser, find a book you want to buy, purchase it, and then open and sync the Kindle app. This is just another drawback that makes buying e-books more difficult.

I think there is a cruelty to what Apple and Google have done now. They have made having digital libraries on their platforms financially unfeasible. However, there may be a way to the madness. When Apple essentially forced all major libraries out of its iOS system, it led to the adoption of Apple Books. This audiobook and digital library sell the content in the app, and since they own the platform, their commission rates are zero. Google is in a similar situation, they have imposed on Audible, Barnes, Noble and now Kindle from Android and this will likely spur adoption of the Google Books app, which sells audiobooks and e-books. They also don’t pay any commission fees to themselves, as they own the entire buying flow.

How will readers be able to buy and read e-books from now on? There are two basic ways to do this. One with their line of fire tablets. Amazon uses its own billing system on these devices, so Google doesn’t get involved at all. The second is with any Kindle e-reader that uses e-paper technology. Amazon sells audiobooks and e-books directly on the device.

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