Will Apple’s New In-App Purchasing Restrictions Rock The Digital Comics Scene? (UPDATE)

In news that is already alarming ebook fans around the internet, the NY Times is reporting in a story this morning that Apple has informed app developers including Sony that they can no longer allow in-app purchases for ebooks or other content that don’t go through Apple, or let users have access to content purchased outside the official Apple App Store.

The implications of such a move for existing apps are unclear, but would potentially change the landscape of how ebooks and digital comics purchases work on iOS devices drastically depending on exactly who the guidelines will effect and how they will be enforced. The most obvious target of such guideline changes would be Amazon, whose Kindle platform has steadily built its lead over rival efforts — including Apple’s iBooks — over the past year. But such guidelines have potential to effect comics app makers such as Comixology, Graphic.ly, and iVerse as well, just as those companies are expanding their platforms to include web and Android apps. Allowing purchases and access across multiple devices is seen as key for the growth of the digital comics market.

Interestingly, Dark Horse Comics’ own digital initiative, which was supposed to launch in January, has been delayed by unknown factors beyond their control. A related matter, or something else? Regardless, the year keeps getting more interesting for digital.

The company has told some applications developers, including Sony, that they can no longer sell content, like e-books, within their apps, or let customers have access to purchases they have made outside the App Store.

Apple rejected Sony’s iPhone application, which would have let people buy and read e-books bought from the Sony Reader Store.

Apple told Sony that from now on, all in-app purchases would have to go through Apple, said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division.

The move could affect companies like Amazon.com and others that sell e-book readers that compete with Apple’s iPad tablet and offer free mobile apps so customers can read their e-book purchases on other devices. An iPad owner, for instance, has not needed to own a Kindle to read Kindle books bought from Amazon.

That may now change.

Rich adds: The issues of content now rear their ugly head. Apple has been shown to censor mild examples of nudity, for examples, in directly-bought comic books on the iPad, but has not been able to challenge the distribution of, say, Vertigo books, through the ComiXology app and the like. If this changes, we will may a new restrictive Comics Code imposed on the digital comics medium, whether it has Mature Readers Only on the “cover” or not, just as the existing Comics Code has died off.

About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.

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