Why did Amazon, Barnes & Noble pull digital purchases from the Google Play Billing System?

Google has finally rolled out its Google Play billing. Developers selling digital goods inside their Android apps all need to switch to Google Play billing, or they will be locked out of the Play Store. This has technically always been the rule at Google Play, but it went mostly unenforced until Google gave developers a deadline of September 2021 to get on board. The company then delayed the transition by letting app developers request a six-month extension, which ran out on March 31.


The Google Play Billing System and Digital Purchases


As per media sources, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are both complying with Google’s rules. Amazon can sell whatever physical products it wants on its own billing system, but the company’s Audible division sells digital purchases, which means it’s Google Play or the highway. Audible has responded by pulling US currency purchases from the Android Audible app, though the company notes you can still spend “credits”—Audible’s free purchase vouchers—in the app.

A new support page entry says, ‘Starting with the Audible for Google Play Android app version 3.23, purchasing titles with a debit or credit card in the app is no longer supported.’ While you can no longer make à la carte purchases, Amazon decided to let Audible subscriptions run through Google Play. Android app signups before April 1 go through Amazon, and after April 1, they’ll need to go through Google.


Major Firms in Unusual Positions


Barnes & Noble is in an unusual position. It’s ending digital purchases on its own hardware—the Nook HD 10—because of the Google Play billing rules. The whole purpose of the Nook line was to let Barnes & Noble sell books, and now it’s just another tablet. However, Spotify managed to strike a special deal with Google that allows it to run its own billing system directly in the app. Google says this deal is the start of a pilot program called user choice billing that will allow a small number of participating developers to offer an additional billing option next to Google Play’s billing system.

Google first demands that developers implement Google Play billing, though, and that’s something Amazon and Barnes & Noble both seem unwilling to do. Barnes & Noble told The Verge that it was not given the option of participating in an alternative billing program, and the company determined it was unable to integrate with Google billing.

Besides Spotify, Netflix was another one of the prominent payment rule-breakers in the Play Store and was directly collecting credit card information for its own billing system. You can now sign up for a new Netflix account in the app, but you’ll be stuck until you check your email for a link to the Netflix website, where you can sign up outside of the app.


Also Read: Will YouTube roll out its ‘YouTube comment spam’ to tackle spammy remarks?