The Department of Justice alleges that Apple and book publishers were working together to fix e-book prices, reports the New York Times.
The DOJ is trying to make Steve Jobs the brains behind a plan that would lead to e-book prices rising for consumers.
It released an email between James Murdoch of News Corporation and Jobs. In it, Jobs wrote Murdoch should, “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.”
The Justice Department points to this email as evidence of e-book price fixing designed to get Amazon to raise its prices to similar numbers, placating publishers in the process.
It gets a little more damning. Apple allegedly used its App Store ecosystem to push around publishers that weren’t on board. From the NYT report:
“After Random House finally agreed to a contract on Jan. 18, 2011, Eddy Cue, the Apple executive in charge of its e-books deals, sent an e-mail to Mr. Jobs attributing the publisher’s capitulation, in part, to “the fact that I prevented an app from Random House from going live in the app store,” the filing reads. “
We don’t know who’s right or wrong in this case. But we do know that e-book pricing is something that is busted. We’ve complained about e-books in the past.
Price is one of the things holding us back from going completely digital with our reading material. When the digital version of a book is more expensive than the physical, bound copy, we have a hard time rationalizing a digital purchase.