You can no longer buy books through the Kindle app
Last week, Amazon announced that they were ending the ability to buy books or manage your subscriptions through the Kindle app – meaning readers will have to go to the regular Amazon website. Why did they decide to do this? And what impact will it have for authors and readers alike?
You may have seen a bunch of articles this week about Amazon’s decision to end purchasing through their Kindle app. It comes as a result of Google charging 15% for all transactions (of digital products) made through apps available on Google Play, and apparently Amazon weren’t having it any longer!
That being said, this move isn’t a surprise to many people. Apple have blocked in-app purchases that bypass their payment portals since 2011 – and go even further, by not allowing links that redirect to a third-party hosted webpage for payment, either.
But what impact will this have on both readers and authors?
Well, since this is the way things already work on iOS based devices and the sky hasn’t quite fallen yet, it’s unlikely that this will cause anything catastrophic. However, it is important to note that as of Jan 2022, Android still dominates the mobile operating market share with about 70%! That means it is entirely possible that blocking direct Kindle app book sales on Android devices will cause more of a disturbance to authors than blocking them on iOS did.
There are several possibilities as to what that may look like.
The first and most obvious effect will be that it will hurt authors by reducing the convenience readers previously had in purchasing their books. As series writers already know, the Kindle app and device will often ‘suggest’ the next volume once customers have finished reading the previous one. That alone likely helps drive series read-through, as the quick and easy ‘buy now’ button makes the purchase an impulse buy while the story is still very fresh in the reader’s mind.
No doubt there’s going to be some read-through drop off if those readers are now forced to go through a slightly more inconvenient process of purchasing the next book – not least of which being the fact that they’ll be hit with Amazon’s ad-heavy website and platform, leading some that came with the intention of buying a specific book to become distracted and buy something else (by someone else!) instead.
But as Amazon hasn’t released figures about how many people purchase through the Kindle app, it’s impossible to know quite how much of a drop off authors might be facing, and consequently how badly it could affect their overall book sales. Only time will tell – so it’s important to start paying attention to your historical read-through rates and daily book sales in order to detect any possible decline.
Alternatively, however, there is a chance that some authors might benefit from this change! Because while the changes mean you can no longer purchase books or manage paid subscriptions through the Kindle app, it IS still possible to use existing subscriptions – which suddenly makes Kindle Unlimited the only way to get your hands on a new book without existing the app and going through a bunch of extra steps.
This has the potential to benefit those authors who are part of the Kindle Unlimited program, since the KU platform will now become the only form of transaction you can make through the Kindle app. Again, it’s impossible to know HOW MUCH of a difference that will make; but it should make authors who publish in Kindle Unlimited a little less worried about the impact of this change.
One other potential change might be an increase in books sold through Google Books. Out of all the ‘wide’ distribution platforms, Google Books has often been overlooked – but now it will become a lot more relevant on the Android platform. Even if the convenience of buying a book through Google hasn’t directly INCREASED, the fact that the ease of purchasing books from Amazon has DECREASED may result in some readers giving google a try. If they have to take extra steps to buy a book anyway…
Will that translate to a surge in sales? I doubt it, and it’s impossible to say without knowing how many sales were generated by the Kindle app – but authors who publish ‘wide’ might celebrate since they finally might start making more sales through Google Books. As we discussed in our initial podcast with Erin Wright, creator of the Wide for the Win group on Facebook, there’s a solid case to be made for putting more and more effort into different distribution platforms and this move by Amazon (even though Google is forcing their hand) certainly isn’t going to hurt that argument.
But one important thing to remember is that Amazon didn’t build the dominance of their Kindle platform overnight, and it’ll take more than this move by Google to bring them down. Purchases are still possible on Kindle eReaders and Kindle Fire tablets, and that means there’ll always be a hardcore group of Amazon customers who buy books using these products and therefore won’t feel the impact of this move at all. Authors who’ve built up readership among these Kindle devotees will likely be seeing that hard work pay off.
Still plenty of unknowns, but one thing is for sure: The industry we’re in continues to change, evolve, and grow – and we need to remain cognizant of that. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution isn’t survival of the fittest, but survival of those most adaptable to change – so keep yourself aware of what’s shifting in the industry, because what might seem like a daunting change to some authors might be a new opportunity for you.