Spotify wants to get into audiobooks but says Apple is in the way – The Denver Post

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Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, wants his company to be the premier outlet in the world of audio. But when he pushed the streaming-subscription service beyond music and podcasts into audiobooks, he ran into a familiar obstacle: Apple.

Over the past month, Apple, the App Store’s gatekeeper, has rejected Spotify’s app three times, saying that its new audiobooks offering broke Apple’s rules governing how developers can communicate with customers about online purchases.

The rejections are the latest skirmish in a long-running battle between Spotify and Apple. For nearly seven years, the companies have feuded over the rules Apple imposes on apps and its practice of collecting a 30% fee on the services and products that apps sell.

Apple’s role as a make-or-break arbiter for apps has long frustrated app developers, particularly companies like Spotify that compete against services such as Apple Music.

Spotify views the conflict over audiobooks as another example of how Apple impedes competition and hampers rivals. Since making an antitrust complaint against Apple in Europe in 2019, Spotify has urged regulators and lawmakers to give app developers the freedom to tell customers about ways to purchase products and services outside of Apple’s payment system, which many apps are required to use.

The audiobook fracas offers a glimpse into the challenges developers face as they try to introduce new features. To abide by Apple’s rules, Spotify included its legal team in the product development process and tapped a former startup founder with a law degree, Nir Zicherman, to spearhead the effort.

Apple initially approved the new feature in Spotify’s existing app before later reversing course, sending Spotify into what it considered to be a Kafkaesque world where Apple simultaneously told the audio company that it could send customers emails about online purchases but couldn’t provide a button inside its app to request those emails. After a series of rejections, Spotify said that Apple on Tuesday approved a version of its app with the audiobook experience.

An Apple spokesperson said that the company had no objections to Spotify adding audiobooks, but he added that Spotify couldn’t do so by circumventing rules against providing web addresses and language that encourages customers to make purchases outside its app.

“We provided them with clear guidance on how to resolve the issue, and approved their app after they made changes that brought it into compliance,” the spokesperson said.

Zicherman and three colleagues said in an interview with The New York Times that they worked hard to add audiobooks to their app according to the App Store’s guidelines.

“Those are effectively hurdles that we have to work around,” Zicherman said.

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