Starting next week, users of the Barnes & Noble Android app will no longer be able to buy digital books in the application, and this appears to be due to a Google Play policy deadline that has been in the works for over a year and a half. And it’s not just Barnes & Noble that’s affected; you are not able to buy Audible titles from Amazon with a debit or credit card in the latest version of its Android app, either.
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 has updated its rules in September 2020 to clarify which types of in-app transactions required the use of the Google Play billing system, but Barnes & Noble and Audible have only just made changes – and at the last minute as well. Google originally set the deadline for September 30, 2021 and then offered a six-month extension until March 31, 2022 – which, as I write this, 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 asked us to this page, “Understanding Google Play’s Payment Policy,” to explain Audible’s and B&N’s decisions. 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 of 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 “does not have the option of participating in an alternative billing program” (more on that program later in this article) and later “determined it was unable to integrate with Google billing.” While that’s not ideal, Barnes & Noble notes that you can still buy e-books directly from its website, which will then sync to the app. discounts and promotions on e-books 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 billed through Google Play, not Audible directly. You will still be able to use Audible Credits to purchase books in the app, and you will also be able to purchase more Credits in the app.
Audible updated this support page on Monday to clearly state that Credit Redemption is still available. “Audible has built in the basic features you love and expect,” the page now says. “You can still sign up in the app. And we know that redeeming credits is the primary way customers use Audible, so you can still buy credits and redeem them for audio titles.”
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 come up with 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.
Updated April 4, 7:28 p.m. ET: Added an updated statement from Audible’s support page.