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Unsent Jobs email deals blow to Apple in DoJ e-book case

updated 11:35 am EDT, Wed June 12, 2013

Suggests Apple was aiming at forcing Amazon to accept higher prices

As a result of an email written by former CEO Steve Jobs, Apple may have suffered a significant blow at the e-book antitrust trial being pursued by the Department of Justice. Fortune reports that the head of Apple's iBookstore, Keith Moerer, testified yesterday that Apple had never asked or pressured any book publisher into changing contracts with Amazon from a wholesale model to Apple's preferred agency model, in which publishers can dictate higher prices. Apple was "indifferent" to what model publishers used with Amazon, Moerer claimed.

Publishing executives had previously corroborated Moerer's views. One example is Macmillan's John Sargent, who testified that while he did present Amazon with an ultimatum to switch to the agency model, no one at Apple had asked him to do it. He also said that the Macmillan contract with Apple makes no reference to Amazon one way or another.

The Jobs email, presented yesterday by DoJ attorney Dan McCuaig, appears to contradict statements by both Moerer and the publishing executives. The message dates back to January 14th, 2010, and finds Jobs responding to a request from publishers that the price caps in the iBookstore contract be raised. "I can live with this," Jobs writes to Eddy Cue, the Apple executive who was handling e-book negotiations at the time, "as long as they move Amazon to the agent model too for new releases for the first year. If not, I'm not sure we can be competitive..."

Under examination by McCuaig, Moerer admitted that the email didn't reflect "indifference" on Apple's part. Apple's chief counsel, Orin Snyder, attempted to defuse the situation by saying the email was never sent, but the DoJ objected, and US District Judge Denise Cote ordered the comment stricken from the record.

Cue is scheduled to testify on Thursday. Until now Apple has enjoyed some success at the e-book trial.

By Electronista Staff


  1. pairof9s

    Senior User

    Joined: 01-03-08

    An internal email, never sent, expressing a reluctance to Amazon maintaining the wholesale model. So where exactly is the smoking gun here? Where is the direct request from Apple to the publishers to pressure Amazon towards an agency model or else?

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    Yeah. That's pretty weak. I don't see how an unsent message has any bearing on whether Apple pressured the publishers to fix prices. It's kind of stupid, really.

  1. Eldernorm

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 09-26-07

    Just goes to show you how desperate they are. Steve Jobs was pissed at Amazon and had a bad thought or two. He even typed it up... but never sent it........

    So the DOJ is now trying to make bad thoughts against the law.....!!!!!!!!! Scary!!

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    There just might be a reason why this email was never sent, eh?

  1. Inkling

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 07-25-06

    Other posters are right. The fact that this email remained unsent suggests Apple and Jobs was leery of pressuring the major booksellers. And to understand that, we need to realize the context. Apple hadn't released the iPad and had no ebook market share. It need these major publishers to sign up with it at a time when it had little to offer them but the possibility of competition with Amazon.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Indeed, the fact that it was unsent should have excluded it from this trial entirely as hearsay. People write a lot of nonsense that they then don't send when they reconsider it. Why this was allowed in the first place is a mystery, and the fact that Judge Cote left it in shows she is still biased against Apple.

    If someone -- anyone -- at the DOJ had written an UNSENT email that said "I can't wait to screw these Apple guys into the ground on this," would that have been allowed in?

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