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Apple's rejection of 'Readability' iOS app stirs subscription controversy


The makers of the software service Readability have called out Apple in an open letter after their application, which declined to use the new iOS in-app subscription feature, was rejected from the App Store.

The Readability application was submitted to Apple for approval, but was rejected last Friday, according to creator Rich Ziade, for not adhering to the company's new subscription policies. Ziade revealed that the iOS software, which saves web articles in an easy-to-read view without advertisements, was rejected from the App Store due to section 11.2 of the App Store Review Guidelines.

Section 11.2 prevents iOS software from "utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or other services in an app."

Readability gives 70 percent of its service fees directly to writers and publishers of content, financed through a minimum $5-per-month subscription fee. But that fee is collected from outside the confines of the App Store, which means Apple does not get its mandated 30 percent cut of all transactions for iOS software.

"We're obviously disappointed by this decision, and surprised by the broad language," Ziade wrote. "By including 'functionality, or services,' it's clear that you intend to pursue any subscription-based apps, not merely those of services serving up content."

He argued that Readability is "unique" because it is a service that pays most of its earnings to writers and publishers. In response, Ziade said that Apple's policy — which he said "smacks of greed" — will force Readability to embrace the Web and bypass the App Store.

Last week, Apple unveiled subscriptions for its iOS App Store, allowing publishers of content-based applications for iOS devices to offer recurring billing. Apple's terms also prevented links to external websites to purchase content or subscriptions. In addition, fees cannot be less expensive for customers outside of the App Store.

Apple's change in policy frustrated some publishers, developers and content providers, who feel that a 30 percent cut of all transactions through iOS software is too steep. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department are also said to be looking into Apple's policies in a "preliminary stage."

Ziade said that while he's frustrated by Apple's change of policy, he hopes that the company will reconsider its approach and allow services like Readability to come to the iPad and iPhone in the form of a native application.

"We're always looking to give readers the best possible reading experience and a native iOS client would help us do that," he wrote. "We hope you'll change your mind. If you do, we’d be happy to resubmit the Readability iOS app."