It looked like a sneaky hack because for years you could buy a Kindle book from the Amazon app on an Android device while you couldn’t do the exact same thing on an iOS. But this unique relationship ended, as first noted by Ars-Technica. When trying to buy eBooks on the Amazon app on Android, you are now taken to a new screen explaining why the option to buy has disappeared. If you update the app, you’ll see a note similar to what you see on an iOS device that in-app purchase of digital products is not available.
Amazon removed support for purchasing e-books from iOS devices in 2011. The goal was to avoid the “tax” that Apple’s App Store imposes on digital products. Comixology, the comic book app, lost the capability in 2014 shortly after Amazon acquired it. It was, and continues to be, a deeply annoying byproduct of the Apple App Store ecosystem. If you see a book you want to read and press the button to buy it, you are redirected to the Amazon app. Then you should immediately return to the browser, go to Amazon and buy the book through this route. Not impossible – just frustrating.
By comparison, buying content on an Android device feels like getting away with something. Indeed, while Google expected apps to use its own billing system for purchasing digital goods, it rarely enforced that expectation. This has made Android an attractive alternative for those of us who spend way too much time buying e-books on our devices. I went out and bought an Android E Ink tablet partly because I was thrilled that I didn’t have to jump through the hoops I had to on iOS.
But Google is currently cracking down on app developers who bend its rules. From June 1, Google said it would remove apps which did not respect the rules of its invoicing system. That is why Amazon has ended support for buying Audible audiobooks through the Android app on April 1, 2022, and competitor Barnes & Noble ended support for purchasing digital books through its app on April 4.
Curiously, in March Google announced a pilot program to allow app developers to use their own billing systems. The pilot program includes Spotify but not Amazon. This pilot program is likely due to Google’s legal battle with Epic Games. Crackdown on the billing system may not help Google’s case, but a big part of Epic’s fight with Google is about the inconsistency with which it treats its partners. Treating everyone the same, even if it makes the user experience worse, is still treating everyone the same.