Spotify accuses Apple of blocking online innovation over audiobook spat

Spotify audiobook artwork
(Image credit: Spotify)

Spotify finds itself in the middle of a battle with Apple over its new audiobook feature — specifically, whether it can give people links to buy them. Apple says it can't, a move that's seen Spotify label the company as anti-competitive.

This latest war of words comes after Apple reportedly rejected Spotify's app update that adds support for audiobooks three times, all because it included a button that allowed people to essentially email themselves a link to buy an audiobook from the service.

War of words

Apple, as everyone knows at this point, requires 30% of any purchases of digital items made by apps downloaded from the App Store. That includes Kindle books, which is why you can't buy one from the Kindle or Amazon apps. As Spotify is finding out, it also includes audiobooks, too — no matter whether it's via a direct link or a button that emails it to customers.

Now Spotify is taking the gloves off with a press release that dives at the heart straight of the matter. "Bottom line, we’re forced to make users work even harder to listen to an audiobook," it says, as a result of Apple's rules. The press release adds that the purchase flow Apple requires is "far too complicated and confusing," noting that even its own rules can change "arbitrarily." That's an accusation Apple has faced many times before, specifically in relation to companies and developers trying to abide by constantly-shifting App Store rules.

Spotify is already four years into a complaint with the European Commission (EU) as Spotify CEO Daniel Ek points out, with no decision having been made. "And while we wait, Apple continues to dictate what online innovation looks like, doing serious harm to the internet economy, choking competition and the imagination of app developers," Ek says before calling on government intervention. Ek believes that Apple "will not self-regulate and has no real incentive to change."

There's little doubt that the best iPhone audiobook-listening experience would allow customers to just buy them via the Spotify app, but that would require the streamer handing 30% of sales over to Apple. That clearly isn't going to happen, so customers look set to lose out as a result.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.