It's been a busy day for App Store watchers. With a New York Times article last night citing in-app book purchasing as a key issue in the rejection of the Sony Reader app, and Apple's later non-clarifying clarification of the company's policy on parity for purchasing in and out of apps, we're all left a bit confused. Can you have a third-party ereader app on iOS at all without Apple's purchasing infrastructure? Where can you buy content? Is the Kindle app doomed?
I don't think the Kindle app is going anywhere right away; for one thing, it's always handled book sales through Safari rather than in-app (something Sony's infrastructure wasn't tuned for, as Christina Warren points out, but that it may be ready for now -- see the second half of this post). Sony says that it "submitted [the app] in accordance with the precedent set by other eBook retailers," which could mean just about anything. Jason Snell's analysis over at Macworld is intriguing.
But there's a deeper question that needs to be asked: Can Amazon or Barnes & Noble remain on the App Store without introducing a way to send more money in Apple's direction?
When Apple's new in-app purchase policies came to light recently, pundits wondered what it might mean to eBook developers in the App Store. Apple had initially allowed web-based commerce to provide content for App Store items, including subscriptions or individual purchases. Then, Apple began rejecting subscription-based magazines that used external channels rather than in-app purchases to make money and updated its developer agreement to make this stance clear.