It felt like a sneaky hack because for years you could buy a Kindle book in the Amazon app on an Android device while you couldn’t do the exact same thing on an iOS device. But that unique relationship has ended, as first noticed by Ars Technica† When you try to buy ebooks in the Amazon app on Android, you will now be taken to a new screen explaining why the purchase option has disappeared. If you update the app, you’ll see a similar note to an iOS device saying it’s not available to purchase digital products in the app.
Amazon withdrew support for buying digital books from iOS devices in 2011. The goal was to avoid the “tax” that Apple’s App Store imposes on digital goods. Comixology, the comic book app, lost the capability in 2014, not long after Amazon acquired it. It was and still is a very annoying byproduct of the Apple App Store ecosystem. When you see a book you want to read and press the button to buy it, you go to the Amazon app. Then you have to go straight back to the browser, navigate to Amazon and buy the book through that route. Not impossible – just frustrating.
In comparison, buying content on an Android device felt like you were getting away with something. That’s because, while Google expected apps to use Google’s proprietary billing system for purchasing digital goods, it rarely lived up to the expectation. It made Android an attractive alternative for those of us who spend way too much time buying digital books on our devices. I went out and bought an Android E Ink tablet, in part because I was excited not to have to jump through the hoops I had to on iOS.
But Google is currently cracking down on app developers who circumvent the rules. From June 1, Google said it would remove apps which did not comply with the rules of the billing system. This is why Amazon ended support for buying Audible audiobooks via the Android app on April 1, 2022, and competitor Barnes & Noble ended support for purchasing digital books through its app on April 4.
Oddly enough, in March, Google announced a pilot program to let app developers use their own billing systems. The pilot program includes Spotify, but not Amazon. That pilot program is likely due to Google’s legal battle with Epic Games. The billing system’s crackdown may not help Google’s case, but a big part of Epic’s battle with Google is about the inconsistency with which it treats partners. Treating everyone equally, even if it worsens the user experience, is still treating everyone the same.