Google’s crackdown means you won’t be able to buy Barnes & Noble ebooks on Android
Starting next week, users of Barnes & Noble’s Android app will no longer be able to purchase eBooks within the app, and this appears to be due to a Google Play policy delay that has been going on for over a year. and half. And it’s not just Barnes & Noble that’s affected; you also can’t buy Amazon’s Audible titles with a debit or credit card in the latest version of its Android app.
The changes appear to stem from Google’s insistence that apps use Google Play‘s billing systems. Developers have long blamed Apple and Google for requiring the use of their own billing systems, largely because of the so-called “app store tax” on many transactions.
Google updated its policies in September 2020 to clarify what types of in-app transactions required the use of Google Play’s billing system, but Barnes & Noble and Audible have only just made changes – and at last minutes as well. Google initially gave a deadline of September 30, 2021, then offered a six-month extension until March 31, 2022 – which, as of this writing, was yesterday. Both Audible and Barnes & Noble have cited Google’s policies as the reason for the changes, with Audible even linking us to this September 2020 post.
Google spokesperson Dan Jackson also directed us to this page, “Understanding Google Play’s Payments Policy,” to explain Audible’s and B&N’s moves. It clarifies that “apps using another in-app billing system will need to remove it in order to comply with the payment policy.”
How might this affect users? Specifically, Barnes & Noble states that “effective April 4, 2022, with the release of NOOK software version 6.1, the ability to purchase has been removed from the Barnes & Noble Nook app for Android and the Nook HD 10″ . Designed with Lenovo,” on a page on its website. The company was a little clearer in an email sent to a Edge Friday: “You will no longer be able to purchase digital content in the B&N NOOK Android app.”
In a separate email sent on Monday, Barnes & Noble further explained that it “did not have the ability to participate in an alternative billing program” and later “determined that it was unable to to integrate with Google billing”. While that’s not ideal, Barnes & Noble notes that you can still purchase eBooks directly from its website, which will then sync to the app. To offset the inconvenience, the company says it has planned a number of eBook discounts and promotions over the next 60 days.
With Amazon’s Audible, you can no longer purchase titles with a debit or credit card in-app starting Friday, according to a support page. Additionally, any new Audible subscriptions started in the app from Friday will be charged through Google Play, not Audible directly. You’ll still be able to use Audible Credits to purchase books in the app, and you’ll also be able to purchase more credits in the app.
You might be wondering why Google is enforcing this just a week after announcing a potentially major policy change: a pilot program that allow developers to use their own billing systems. We wondered about that as well, but Jackson pointed out that pilot participants will have to offer Google’s billing system. before they can include their own.
Currently, Spotify is the only company named in a pool of “a small number of participating developers”. Audible spokesperson Kamian Allen said the company had no comment on its participation in the program, and Barnes & Noble did not respond to our questions.
Update April 4, 2022 at 8:55 a.m. ET: Updated to add an additional statement from Barnes & Noble.