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Kobo Strikes Back By Developing Web App

Recently we reported that e-book retailers including Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Kobo were forced to alter their iOS apps thanks to a change in Apple's policy which kicked into gear back in February. Essentially retailers are forced to (1) remove links/buttons to external e-bookstores that are embedded within their apps and (2) shell out 30-percent of what the apps generate if retailers want to sell media (e-books, e-magazines, etc) within their apps. Changes to the apps are expected to be made by July 31.

Given that 30-percent is quite a slice of profit, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Kobo chose to simply remove the e-bookstore links in their iOS apps. Unfortunately, that means consumers can't purchase e-books from within NOOK, Kindle and Kobo – all purchases must be done through a web browser or through a non-iOS app (like Android etc).

"Over the past weeks, Kobo has worked with Apple to create a solution that would benefit the iOS eReading community within Apple's new App Store guidelines," the company said. "Unfortunately, Apple has mandated that Kobo, along with all eBook retailers, substantially change the eReading experience for consumers by removing in-app access to the Kobo store."

That said, Kobo isn't going down without a fight. While the company has already altered its iOS e-reader app in compliance with Apple's new rules, the company plans to dodge around the Apple snafu by creating an HTML5-based app. Although it will only be available via an Apple-approved web browser, consumers will be able to read, browse, shop and share on smartphones, tablets, netbooks, laptops and desktop computers.

"Kobo believes in providing an open platform for users, and our HTML5 development will support the company's current app strategy to reach a broader base of users worldwide," said Michael Serbinis, CEO, Kobo.  "HTML5 allows us to add more features and update our popular Reading Life social experience far more quickly, providing an agile method to deliver advanced enhancements to consumers without limitation."

The HTML5 version is expected to arrive later this year, conveniently around the same time Facebook's "Project Spartan" HTML5-based platform will supposedly launch. There's now even talk that the social website is talking with browser developers to incorporate Credits so that users can purchase goods within these HTML5-based apps. But there's also speculation that Facebook may reel in about 30-percent from the sale of virtual goods. So far it's not known if this is strictly due to using Credits, or if it's a requirement for publishing apps on the Project Spartan platform.

Regardless, Kobo seems to think that HTML5 is the way to go. "Kobo's move to provide an HTML5 web app will offer additional convenience to consumers and deliver a rich and seamless experience to Kobo app users across platforms, including Android, RIM and HP WebOS," the company said.