Kindle iOS app offers free samples, straddles Apple's in-app purchase rules

Though Amazon has long remained apparently content to abide by Apple’s rules about in-app purchases, the retail giant’s latest update to its Kindle app for iOS devices remains true to the letter of the law, if not the spirit.

As good as the Kindle app on iOS is for reading, the inability to search for and purchase books right in the app has made it at times frustrating. The fault, though, lies not in Amazon, but in Apple, which has mandated that anything sold in the App Store—including in-app purchases, subscriptions sold through apps, and so on—is subject to the company’s 30-percent cut.

Now, if you’ve purchased ebooks from Amazon before, you’ll know that you can download a free sample of most ebooks on the store, and then opt to purchase the full version after you’ve decided whether or not it’s met your expectations.

Of course, since those samples are free, they don’t fall under the 30-precent rule. So Amazon has built the ability to search for and download free samples directly inside its Kindle app on iOS. Just tap the magnifying glass icon and enter a name or a title. In previous versions of the app, this search option only presented results from your own library—now it will also offer Kindle Free Samples that match the search terms.

And when you’ve finished that book, it’s only a tap or two to download another sample by the same author, or add a related book to your Wish List. You can also send yourself an email about a related book or even email yourself about the book you just finished, which will send you the URL for the book in Amazon’s store.

When you finish reading one book, it's only a swipe and a couple taps to download another free sample by the same author.

Granted, you still have to venture into a Web browser to buy the full book, but it’s a clever solution to the problem presented by Apple’s in-app purchase policy, and perhaps the best option for Amazon. Following Cupertino’s rules about offering in-app purchases would likely be implausible for Amazon, both technologically (due to the huge volume of purchases) and practically (since Amazon most certainly doesn’t want to send a chunk of its revenue to one of its competitors). But in this case it was the consumers who were being caught in the crossfire, and the Kindle update may go some ways towards easing their pain and frustration.

That said, I still miss the days when there was a button right in the Kindle app to take me to Amazon—and believe me, I haven’t started buying any more titles from the iBookstore as a result.

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