Steve Jobs an ebooks doubter Eddy Cue tells iBooks price fix court

Chris Davies - Jun 14, 2013, 6:32am CDT
Steve Jobs an ebooks doubter Eddy Cue tells iBooks price fix court

Apple‘s Steve Jobs had to be convinced of the potential for ebooks on the iPad, Eddy Cue has revealed, describing how he needed to petition for iBooks support during testimony at the ebook price fixing trial this week. Cue first pitched a digital bookstore in 2009, Cue told the court, AllThingsD reports, but Jobs “wasn’t interested” as at the time the iPad was yet to be launched. However, after revisiting the idea on the iPad, Jobs gave Cue’s team less than three months to get the iBookstore ready for public demo at the first launch event.

“When I got my first chance to touch the iPad, I became completely convinced that this was a huge opportunity for us to build the best e-reader that the market had ever seen … And so I went to Steve and told him why I thought [the iPad] was going to be a great device for ebooks. … and after some discussions he came back and said, you know, I think you’re right. I think this is great, and then he started coming up with ideas himself about what he wanted to do with it and how it would be even better as a reader and store” Eddy Cue, senior vice president of internet software and services, Apple

The Jobs anecdote came as Cue answered questions about how Apple had negotiated with publishers around ebook pricing, amid accusations that the Cupertino firm colluded to push the so-called agency model and subsequently drive up costs for readers. Apple, the Department of Justice alleges, worked with the major publishers to force Amazon to adopt the agency model, with the net result that ebooks once priced at around $9.99 suddenly rose to $12.99-14.99.

With the DoJ obviously unable to call Jobs himself to the stand, the case has for the large part hinged on emails sent from the former chief executive to other members of the Apple management team and counterparts at publishing houses. Cue’s appearance, the WSJ reports, saw the exec vocal in his denials of any wrongdoing.

“The publishers set the prices” Cue told the court under questioning by Justice Department lawyer Lawrence Buterman, asked if he felt the agency model was beneficial to consumers. “We gave them a great offer” Cue said of iBookstore users.

The case has been shrouded in controversy for some time, given Apple is the last remaining stand-out to hold off against the DoJ. All five publishers settled with the government, though admitted no wrongdoing in the process, but Apple has described the case as a matter of principle that it intends to fight all the way.

Initial signs, though, suggested the company might struggle, with even the judge presiding over the case saying that, based on the initial evidence submitted, she felt the government would have a conclusive argument. It was later revealed, however, that the DoJ was using an unsent version of a so-described “smoking gun” email which the department had cited as clear evidence of collusion. In actual fact, Apple pointed out, the real email Jobs sent was significantly different.

The case is expected to be concluded before June is out.

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