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Court documents reveal Steve Jobs email pushing e-book 'agency model'

post #1 of 101
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New details that were previously redacted from a class action suit claiming Apple and two publishing houses colluded to falsely inflate e-book prices revealed that Steve Jobs personally persuaded one of the publishers to ink a commitment to the company's "agency model."

An amended complaint to the class action lawsuit that accuses Apple, MacMillan and Penguin of e-book price-setting was released on Friday and saw the plaintiffs grow by 17 states as New York and the District of Columbia joined the fray, reports Paid Content.

First filed in April on the same day as a Department of Justice antitrust suit regarding the same matter, the states' case has revealed previously sealed statements and evidence including an email from Jobs to an executive at an unnamed publisher's parent company.

In the recently amended complaint, the states claim that Apple Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue, who was acting as Apple's liaison with the publishers, ?could not secure one of the Conspiring Publisher?s commitment directly from an executive."

At issue was Apple's agency model which allows publishers to set prices under a "most favored nations" clause that contractually keeps them from selling the same content to other resellers at a lower price. This went against the the then-dominant wholesale model used by Amazon which let resellers set their own prices, sometimes at a loss, in order to drum up sales.

Not all of the five major book companies were on board with Apple's pricing plan, and Jobs apparently stepped in with a personal email in late January.

From Jobs' email:

As I see it, [Conspiring Publisher] has the following choices:

1. Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99.

2. Keep going with Amazon at $9.99. You will make a bit more money in the short term, but in the medium term Amazon will tell you they will be paying you 70% of $9.99. They have shareholders too.

3. Hold back your books from Amazon. Without a way for customers to buy your ebooks, they will steal them. This will be the start of piracy and once started, there will be no stopping it. Trust me, I?ve seen this happen with my own eyes.

Maybe I?m missing something, but I don?t see any other alternatives. Do you?


The publisher reversed its decision and signed on with Apple three days later.



Thus far, the class action suit has seen moderate progress and the DoJ has separately settled with Hachette, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. Internationally, an identical suit was filed in Canada and the issue is being examined by the European Commission.
post #2 of 101

so.. what's the big deal? 

post #3 of 101

Wait... If Steve had to talk the publisher into it, doesn't that imply they made the decision independent of the other publishers?

post #4 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Steinberg View Post

so.. what's the big deal? 

The email suggests that it's either Apple or Amazon and it reads as if the publisher can't choose both. Now, with Apple being the outsider with essentially no market share, that probably wouldn't lead anywhere, but it has the potential to create some problems.

I do not, however, see anything there that sounds like price fixing.
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post #5 of 101

So given the consumer has the choice to buy from Amazon or Apple, how can that be price fixing? Isn't the consumer still in control?

post #6 of 101
Oddly, Apple was pushing the same model for ebooks that it uses in selling software, music & videos. The supplier sets the price & Apple gets 30%. This means that Apple assumes all of the risk as they handle all of the marketing & promotion of their online stores. While they do contractually obligate the supplier to provide Apple with a level playing field, which prevents competitors from deals where they purchase @ below Apple's price in return for cash under the table, it does not prevent any competitors from having access to the same products. Amazon can still sell ebooks at a loss either way & Apple simplifies its retail strategy by using the same model that they are using for every product they sell online. Surprisingly this does't cause concern for anyone. So why is this a problem for ebooks ? Something tells me that Amazon has been very busy in the background
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post #7 of 101

So much for all who claimed that while the book publishers may have conspired, Apple was not part of it.  According to them, apple got duped into being a part of it.

 

But now it looks like Apple was instead the ringleader.

post #8 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

So much for all who claimed that while the book publishers may have conspired, Apple was not part of it.  According to them, apple got duped into being a part of it.

But now it looks like Apple was instead the ringleader.

Only in your own distorted mind.

Where in the above memo do you see Apple promoting either conspiracy or price fixing?
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post #9 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

So much for all who claimed that while the book publishers may have conspired, Apple was not part of it.  According to them, apple got duped into being a part of it.

But now it looks like Apple was instead the ringleader.

Only in your own distorted mind.

Where in the above memo do you see Apple promoting either conspiracy or price fixing?

 

 

 

 

Quote:

From Jobs' email:


As I see it, [Conspiring Publisher] has the following choices:

1. Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99.

 

Apple was seemingly the ringleader, and not some dupe of the publishing industry.

post #10 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post





Apple was seemingly the ringleader, and not some dupe of the publishing industry.

No one with a clue as said that Apple was a dupe. Apple offered the same terms they use in all their stores. Steve reached out to one or more companies that didn't jump in right offer with a second argument, like he had probably done in other cases.

that Steve was aware that the publishers were keen to dump Amazon when he decided the time was ripe for the iBookstore, which would use the same agency terms as the rest of iTunes, doesn't make Apple party to collusion by the publishers. Steve positioned it as one or the other because he figured they would dump Amazon, not band together to force Apple's system on them

Fact is, the publishers could have done what they did regardless of Apple ever starting the whole iBooks thing. And then when Apple created the store months later you would still claim they were behind it

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post #11 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Steinberg View Post

so.. what's the big deal? 

 

Bingo. Steve's email is perfectly sensible, perfectly common-sense. It basically says, join the App Store "model" where you set a reasonable price, you make money, Apple makes money, customers get WORLDWIDE (ideally, as per App Store) access to legitimate, legal, wide-ranging books.

 

I don't give a darn about "agency model" or whatever "model" is being bandied about. Old business models and the Amazon model is monolithic.

 

The idea of a "business model" is also on the way out, because it implies that you have some knowledge about how the market is going to react, which you usually don't.

 

Dead-tree industries, of course, won't disappear, but how many books does mainstream society, particularly emerging markets, read?

 

Steve, as always, thought he was going against the grain but it's just common sense, which ironically is not that common.

 

The way I see it is this. I create a book. I publish it to the iBookStore. I set a price, Apple takes 30%, I sell it worldwide. As we've seen from Apps, where's the problem?

 

Obviously with the major publishers, there is some level of collaboration needed in getting everybody on board. Is this collusion? Well, technically, yes, just like iTunes music, TV shows and movies, which by definition is price-fixing, since generally almost all music, TV shows and movies are sold at, well, a fixed price. In this case of course in places like Australia it becomes a concern because these fixed-prices are higher than one would imagine, hence collusion with possible price-gauging is a concern.

 

In the case of the initial iBook launch with major publishers, so far I don't see something where they are out to price-gauge or put up increased prices just for the sake of it. Yes, it's more expensive than Amazon, because the traditional and Amazonian "model" is pumping through as many books as possible into "bestseller" lists and then worrying about making money later (eg. authors not making money but relying on speaking tours instead).

 

In looking into publishing my own iBooks, I noticed as well in terms of copyright it's a nightmare, because books are not seen to be valuable in and of themselves, but things like merchandising, movie rights, speaking rights, and so on.

 

The traditional and Amazonian model is clearly antiquated and seriously flawed. The Apple App Store "model" is certainly reasonable and has massive potential for the present and future, and there are currently no reasonable competing models.

 

Even ePub, Lulu, Kindle and so-on for eBooks is interesting but somewhat tenous because they are convenient but devalue the content of the book in some ways because you feel, well, it's just a text file or PDF, which granny down the road typed up in her spare time, why would I pay $20 or even $10 for something like this?

 

Hence the iBooks2 "textbooks", essentially the new Hypercard e/iBook "model" where the message(content) and the medium are both in tune with each other. You're not taking a dead-tree medium aka books and mashing it into an eBook.

 

It also solves the long standing annoyance (probably of Steve's too) that iOS Apps are good for ~functionality~ but when it comes to significant levels of content, Apps start to become difficult to create and manage. iBooks2 is essentially a way for almost anyone to make a ~content-rich~ "app"... with the requirement that the content, and hopefully reasonably vetted by Apple, has to be significant. But of course the obvious advantages are easily updateable, high-content-level, rich interactive books without compatibility and so-called "web standards" nightmares.

post #12 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

Apple was seemingly the ringleader, and not some dupe of the publishing industry.

 

Wow, you get the medal for tenacity, I wish I had as much free time as you. But "ringleader" obviously is a dubious term here, because Apple is the seller and publishers the customers... In this case any business is a "ringleader" in trying to get partnerships. Where partnerships become illegal collusion is obviously the crux of the legal matter, not "who led who" per se.

 

In other words, where all parties were willing (eg. nobody put a gun to their head in a dimly-lit warehouse) then all parties are potentially equally responsible for any collusion - from my common-sense point of view.


Edited by nvidia2008 - 5/14/12 at 8:44pm
post #13 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

So much for all who claimed that while the book publishers may have conspired, Apple was not part of it.  According to them, apple got duped into being a part of it.

But now it looks like Apple was instead the ringleader.

Whoohoo, more Apple tax to sneak into tax havens, ain't it great, no wonder you spend so much time here.
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post #14 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


The email suggests that it's either Apple or Amazon and it reads as if the publisher can't choose both. Now, with Apple being the outsider with essentially no market share, that probably wouldn't lead anywhere, but it has the potential to create some problems.
I do not, however, see anything there that sounds like price fixing.

Jobs did suggest prices in this email. AFAIK under the agency model the publishers set the prices themselves. Also "we can all" hints that other publishers will participate under similar terms.

 

"As I see it, [Conspiring Publisher] has the following choices:

1. Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99."

post #15 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDoppio View Post

Jobs did suggest prices in this email. AFAIK under the agency model the publishers set the prices themselves. Also "we can all" hints that other publishers will participate under similar terms.

"As I see it, [Conspiring Publisher] has the following choices:


1. Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99."

Way to ignore the rest of the email. One could just as easily written:
Quote:
From Jobs' email:
As I see it, [Conspiring Publisher] has the following choices:

Keep going with Amazon at $9.99. You will make a bit more money in the short term, but in the medium term Amazon will tell you they will be paying you 70% of $9.99. They have shareholders too.

It's what many of us do on this forum by dissecting all the avenues one can take.

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post #16 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

 

 

 

 

 

Apple was seemingly the ringleader, and not some dupe of the publishing industry.

It simply sounds as if Apple was trying to "create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99."  I think you have to be a little delusional to see anything else.  Either that or a troll, of course, but they're both pretty much the same thing.

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post #17 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


Way to ignore the rest of the email. One could just as easily written:
Quote:
From Jobs' email:
As I see it, [Conspiring Publisher] has the following choices:
Keep going with Amazon at $9.99. You will make a bit more money in the short term, but in the medium term Amazon will tell you they will be paying you 70% of $9.99. They have shareholders too.
It's what many of us do on this forum by dissecting all the avenues one can take.

I quoted the part relevant to the accusation of price-fixing. The rest, that you quoted, does add to the tone of the letter -- there's the hint that with Amazon, the publisher will be making a lot less per book. The incentive to fix the prices at $13-15 is obvious.

 

Of course, the publisher could have just as well thought that 70% of $9.99 at a much higher volume will be better than 70% of $14.99 but a small fraction of the sales. How it works out in the end depends on what the other publishers choose. Not much unlike the prisoner's dilemma, with the tiny addition of a go-between helping the prisoners to make the right choice.

post #18 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by knightlie View Post

It simply sounds as if Apple was trying to "create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99."

Indeed, with the stress falling on "at $12.99 and $14.99", since the rest already existed. 

post #19 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post


Whoohoo, more Apple tax to sneak into tax havens, ain't it great, no wonder you spend so much time here.

 

LOL they're pulling out though! AUD dropping fast.

post #20 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

 

Apple was seemingly the ringleader, and not some dupe of the publishing industry.

 

Personally I find that anything that Apple does to piss you off is just fine by me.

 

You're going to be in for a horrible next few years as this company moves from strength to strength.

 

Evil-Laugh.png

 

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Edited by GTR - 5/15/12 at 4:14pm
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post #21 of 101

Reads like someone trying to break up a monopoly (Amazon's), not trying to create one.

post #22 of 101
Personally, thanks to Apple, I have become an author. I do not make money (neither Apple), as I decided to make it free. In the opposite case, I would have gained much more money than in the traditional publishing system.

i think the publishing companies deliberately overprice electronic books, but this has nothing to do with Apple. they just want to keep the high margin they make in traditional paper publishing, with very little left to the authors. This system is going to explode, as if they persist in this, authors will soon discover they do not need editors any more...
post #23 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

Reads like someone trying to break up a monopoly (Amazon's), not trying to create one.

I must have missed choice 4, "You're welcome to publish at Apple's store in addition to Amazon, and feel free to set your own price."

post #24 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDoppio View Post

Jobs did suggest prices in this email. AFAIK under the agency model the publishers set the prices themselves. Also "we can all" hints that other publishers will participate under similar terms.

"As I see it, [Conspiring Publisher] has the following choices:


1. Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99."

Let's see. Apple suggests a couple of prices but makes it clear that the publisher can choose whatever price they want.

Amazon fixes the prices at $9.99 regardless of what the publisher wants.

And you accuse Apple of price fixing?

You're really confused.
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post #25 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


Let's see. Apple suggests a couple of prices but makes it clear that the publisher can choose whatever price they want.
Amazon fixes the prices at $9.99 regardless of what the publisher wants.
And you accuse Apple of price fixing?
You're really confused.

"Price fixing" and "fixed price" isn't the same.

 

If one checks our posting history there will be little doubt as to who's confused.

post #26 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDoppio View Post

"Price fixing" and "fixed price" isn't the same.

If one checks our posting history there will be little doubt as to who's confused.

Please explain how telling the publishers that the only price they can use is $9.99 is not price fixing.
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post #27 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


Please explain how telling the publishers that the only price they can use is $9.99 is not price fixing.

$9.99 is not the only price that publishers can use, but the price for end customers. Amazon doesn't tell the publishers what the price should be; instead, it pays publishers whatever they ask for the book, and subsidizes the price to $9.99 from its own pockets. This has nothing to do with what is known as price fixing (see link above).

 

Besides, I don't recall anyone suing Amazon for illegal practices. Apple is the one on trial.

post #28 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDoppio View Post

$9.99 is not the only price that publishers can use, but the price for end customers. Amazon doesn't tell the publishers what the price should be; instead, it pays publishers whatever they ask for the book, and subsidizes the price to $9.99 from its own pockets. This has nothing to do with what is known as price fixing (see link above).

Besides, I don't recall anyone suing Amazon for illegal practices. Apple is the one on trial.

Which only points out the hypocrisy of you and the others attacking Apple on this.

Apple allows the publishers to set prices. Amazon fixes prices and used their monopoly to enforce it.

You are technically correct that the publisher set the price to Amazon, but how long do you think Amazon would be willing to continue subsidizing the books where the publisher wanted more than $9.99? It's called predatory pricing - once Amazon controls the market, they simply stop promoting the books where they lose money - or tell the publishers to lower their price.
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post #29 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDoppio View Post

I must have missed choice 4, "You're welcome to publish at Apple's store in addition to Amazon, and feel free to set your own price."

 

That would be unworkable. The publishers would set a price of (at least) $14.27 on iTunes so Apple can get their 30% while they still get the $9.99 they get from Amazon. Then no-one would buy from iTunes. And Apple can't very well waive the 30% because their music, movie and TV wholesalers would be up in arms.
post #30 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta View Post


Which only points out the hypocrisy of you and the others attacking Apple on this.
Apple allows the publishers to set prices. Amazon fixes prices and used their monopoly to enforce it.
You are technically correct that the publisher set the price to Amazon, but how long do you think Amazon would be willing to continue subsidizing the books where the publisher wanted more than $9.99? It's called predatory pricing - once Amazon controls the market, they simply stop promoting the books where they lose money - or tell the publishers to lower their price.

I am not attacking Apple, just commenting that the attacks may not be completely unwarranted. In fact, before I saw this email from the late Mr Jobs, I hadn't formed an opinion as to whether Apple were likely to have orchestrated the collusion to fix ebook prices up.

 

Also, I am personally very happy with Amazon pushing the prices down. Everyone in my family reads a lot and we spend a lot on books. I used to go to Borders every month before they closed down. I am not happy when a company goes out of business, but such is life, some companies out-compete others. Amazon's business model is somewhat crazy and a bit of a mystery in the long run, but so far they have done nothing undeserving of my sympathy. Dragging Amazon in comments about this lawsuit is only smoke and mirrors and doesn't justify anyone else breaking the law.

post #31 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

 

That would be unworkable. The publishers would set a price of (at least) $14.27 on iTunes so Apple can get their 30% while they still get the $9.99 they get from Amazon. Then no-one would buy from iTunes. And Apple can't very well waive the 30% because their music, movie and TV wholesalers would be up in arms.

Well, tough luck. Are you suggesting that Apple's inability to compete on price justified a collusion to fix prices?

 

Workable or not, Jobs could have at least offered, right?


Edited by DrDoppio - 5/15/12 at 5:27am
post #32 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTR View Post

Personally I find that anything that Apple does to piss you off is just fine by me.

You're going to be in for a horrible next few years as this company moves from strength to strength.

LL

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LOL. I am disgusted that the Mods haven't kicked zzz's sorry backside out of these forums yet. His posts detract from, derail, or obfuscate just about every forum topic.

Ugh.
post #33 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post


LOL. I am disgusted that the Mods haven't kicked zzz's sorry backside out of these forums yet. His posts detract from, derail, or obfuscate just about every forum topic.
Ugh.

Unlike your own posts, which are always on topic. /s

post #34 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

 

...while they still get the $9.99 they get from Amazon...

 

So Amazon is like a charity, giving 100% of the proceeds to publishers?

 

You want to back that up with a link?

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post #35 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDoppio View Post

Well, tough luck. Are you suggesting that Apple's inability to compete on price justified a collusion to fix prices?

 

Workable or not, Jobs could have at least offered, right?

 

I don't know what you mean by "tough luck." Do you mean that if you can't match the price in a market you can't enter? Well that's not true, you can go to the wholesalers and explain that due to existing arrangements, $12.99 is the lowest you can do, and would they prefer you or the other guy as a business partner? It's totally on them whatever choice they make.
post #36 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post


LOL. I am disgusted that the Mods haven't kicked zzz's sorry backside out of these forums yet. His posts detract from, derail, or obfuscate just about every forum topic.
Ugh

 

LOL, beat me to it - yes, unlike your well reasoned and always unbiased posts.

post #37 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

 

So Amazon is like a charity, giving 100% of the proceeds to publishers?

 

You want to back that up with a link?

It's in Job's email. He says they would make less in the short term if they went with Apple. Apple price: $12.99 x 0.7 = $9.09. So they must be getting somewhere close to the full $9.99 from Amazon, at least $9.10. And it's not for charity they are doing it, but to build market share for Kindle.

post #38 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDoppio View Post

Well, tough luck. Are you suggesting that Apple's inability to compete on price justified a collusion to fix prices?

Workable or not, Jobs could have at least offered, right?

No, he's suggesting that Amazon was illegally abusing its monopoly position via predatory pricing. Selling at or below cost to keep a competitor out of the market is illegal. So why are you attacking Apple rather than Amazon which was clearly guilty of illegal predatory pricing?
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post #39 of 101
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDoppio View Post

$9.99 is not the only price that publishers can use, but the price for end customers. Amazon doesn't tell the publishers what the price should be; instead, it pays publishers whatever they ask for the book, and subsidizes the price to $9.99 from its own pockets. This has nothing to do with what is known as price fixing (see link above).

Huh!? What if it was sold to Amazon for $0.99 instead?

As usual, on topic, but confused.
post #40 of 101
Quote:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scaramanga89 View Post

LOL, beat me to it - yes, unlike your well reasoned and always unbiased posts.

Of course I am biased. What's your point?
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