DOJ Uses Email from Steve Jobs as Evidence in E-Book Case
May 15, 2013 10:14 AM
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The DOJ is calling Apple the "ringmaster" in the creation of this price-fixing scheme
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) says an old email written by former Apple CEO Steve Jobs proves that the company was the "ringmaster" in
the e-books price-fixing
A recent government filing revealed an old email (dated in 2010) from Jobs to James Murdoch of News Corporation, which said "Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream e-books market at $12.99 and $14.99.”
According to the Department of Justice, this email is evidence that Apple led the e-book price-fixing arrangement. The DOJ also said that this arrangement forced Amazon to raise its e-book price from $9.99 to the higher price mentioned in Jobs' email. Many publishers were onboard with this, but it ended with higher prices to consumers and dishonest profits for Apple and these publishers.
In addition to the email, there are statements from publishers saying that Apple bullied them into the e-books price-fixing situation. For instance, Jobs told Random House CEO Markus Dohle that his company would lose support from Apple if it didn't make a quick decision about joining back in 2010. Furthermore, Apple threatened to block an e-book application by Random House from Apple’s App Store if the publisher didn't agree to a deal with Apple.
The government filing also mentions that Penguin CEO David Shanks said Apple was the facilitator between publishers when making the agreement.
What does Apple have to say about all this?
“We helped transform the e-book market with the introduction of the iBookstore in 2010, bringing consumers an expanded selection of e-books and delivering innovative new features,” said Tom Neumayr, a spokesman for Apple. “The market has been thriving and innovating since Apple’s entry, and we look forward to going to trial to defend ourselves and move forward.”
Apple is set to go to trial June 3. It was initially the target of the e-books investigation along with Hachette Livre (Lagardère Publishing France), Harper Collins (News Corp., U.S.A.), Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp., U.S.A.), Penguin (Pearson Group, United Kingdom) and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck (owner of inter alia Macmillan, Germany), but all the book publishers have already settled with the DOJ.
Back in April 2012, the
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Apple and the five book publishers
over anticompetitive practices concerning e-book sales. The book publishers were accused of partaking in an agency sales model with Apple, which meant that publishers were allowed to set the price of a book and Apple would take a 30 percent cut. In addition, the publishers could not let rivals sell the same book at a lower price.
Traditionally, publishers sell physical books to retailers for about half of the cover price, which is considered a wholesale model. Retailers then had the ability to sell those books to customers for a lower price if they wanted to.
But when e-books came along, this model was challenged. Amazon started selling best sellers for as low as $9.99 to encourage its Kindle e-reader sales. Publishers were not happy.
Apple then came along
, and publishers began to worry that it would take over the book industry the way Apple's iTunes took over the music industry, where customers would choose to purchase cheap, digital books instead of physical books.
However, Apple attempted to resolve this when it struck a deal with publishers to implement the agency model in 2010. This helped Apple at the time of its iPad and iBooks launch.
But its deal with publishers made it seem like an attempt to thwart Amazon's dominance.
The New York Times
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5/16/2013 4:07:55 AM
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