Last night, Kno quietly released its first digital textbook app for the iPad. It includes its own store of “over 70,000 titles at 30% to 50% off list” price. And the app is a full textbook reader.
The app looks great from the screen shots, but TechCrunch’s blurb fails to ask about the elephant in the room. Is Kno’s “own store” going through Apple’s In-App Purchase API or not?
From a little bit of playing around with the app, you have to have an account with Kno as well to purchase. And the tutorial that the app plays when you launch it tells you that if you go to Kno’s web store, you’ll have a bigger selection and greater savings. As a test, I searched on the web store for books by Greg Mankiw (in addition to being a blogger, Mankiw’s economics textbooks are college standards). His Principles of Economics 5th Edition shows up there, saying you can rent it—yes, rent—for six months for $119. (The hardcover on Amazon goes for $171 and the Kindle edition is $153; the full list price is a staggering $256.)
Trying to buy a book from O’Reilly in the Kno Textbooks app lets you buy it directly, and it definitely looks like it’s using Apple’s IAP. However, searching for the Mankiw book tells you “this book is available by request” and gives you a “Request Book” button; clicking that prompts you for an email address, with the notice “We’ll send you an email in 5 minutes to let you know when your book is ready.”
This appears to blatantly violate Apple’s guidelines:
All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app.
Yet it seems unlikely that Apple would approve an entirely new-to-the-store app that violates this policy less than a month away from the “shape up or ship out” deadline they gave developers earlier in the year. Either this somehow slipped under the radar—Apple’s reviewers didn’t even bother to launch the app before approving it—or whatever Kno is doing is okay with Apple.