Bulletins

Android users can't buy Audible books in-app after Google policy changes

Audible and Barnes & Noble long knew Google Play's new policy was coming. They waited to announce changes anyway.

The Google Play store.

Google Play recently launched a pilot with Spotify to explore third-party billing.

Photo: Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

Developers, companies and regulators have tried to pressure Google and Apple to change their App Store commission structure for more than two years now. Last month, it appeared that Google was ready to play nice. The company announced a pilot program with Spotify that will allow the company to collect payments outside of Google's own billing system. The pilot, which will roll out in select markets, will allow developers to bypass Google's fees. If things go as planned, what Google calls “user billing choice” could soon be available to app developers worldwide.

But two companies not part of the pilot — Amazon-owned Audible and Barnes & Noble — seem surprised that they're not getting the same treatment as Spotify. A Google Play policy change that went into effect March 31 requires purchases to go through Google Play’s billing systems. And the two companies, which knew about the changes for more than 18 months, have been caught flat-footed. As of now, Android users cannot buy Amazon audible titles or Barnes & Noble digital books in those respective apps.


Explaining the billing issues to The Verge, Barnes & Noble said that it was “not given the option of participating in an alternative billing program.”

Protocol contacted both Barnes & Noble and Audible, but both companies could not be reached for comment.

If you’re a Barnes & Noble NOOK Android app user, don’t panic. Because of the billing policy update, users can’t buy books through the app directly. However, Android users can still purchase content on BN.com, which will be synced to their NOOK app library, according to the Barnes & Noble website. Users can also continue purchasing through the app on their phones, so long as they don’t update to the new version, 6.1.

Audible listeners will find themselves in a similar situation. They can always purchase titles at Audible.com, and have those titles sync to their devices. They can also still use in-app credits to purchase books for listening, or continue to make purchases if they don’t upgrade the app.

It's not clear when Google will enable other companies to offer third-party billing options, or why Audible and Barnes & Noble took so long to adapt to Google's billing policies. One thing is certain: The app store tax battle is far from over.
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