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Home / Business / Internal emails show how an Amazon ad forced Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller to block purchases of the Kindle books app on iOS

Internal emails show how an Amazon ad forced Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller to block purchases of the Kindle books app on iOS

As part of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust probe inside Apple, lawmakers issued a variety of internal emails from Apple. A collection of those emails offers new details about the long-running battle with Amazon to allow in-app purchases of ebooks in the Kindle app.

As it stands today, the Kindle app for iPhone and iPad does not allow users to purchase ebooks directly. Users can read ebooks they have already purchased, but to buy new ones, they must use Safari. This is Amazon’s way of avoiding giving Apple a 30% discount on ebook purchases, which would be necessary if Amazon sells ebooks directly into the Kindle app itself.

What is important to remember is that this type of arrangement has not always been the case. By early 201

1, you can purchase Kindle ebooks directly in the Kindle app from iOS. As first uncovered by the IR Virgin, two sets of emails included in internal documents include conversations between Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller, and other Apple executives regarding this situation.

In one email, Schiller explained that Apple initially made an exception for Amazon because “users were going to buy books on a Kindle device and later have access to an iPhone.” As Apple sold more iPhones, iPads, and iPod touch, however, Schiller thought it was time to drop this exception.

In fact, what actually led Schiller to re-investigate this situation, according to the emails, is that Amazon ran a series of commercials on how you can still access your Kindle books if you switch from iPhone to Android or vice versa. In one email, Schiller wrote:

I just watched a new Amazon Kindle app on TV. It starts with the woman using an iPhone and buying and reading books with the Kindle app. The woman then switches to an Android phone and can still read all her books. While the main message is that there are Kindle apps on lots of mobile devices, the secondary message that you can’t miss is that it’s easy to switch from iPhone to Android. Not fun to see.

In a separate email, Schiller said:

I think we should tell Amazon that based on their own TV commercials it is clear that the use of their App is now in violation of our terms and guidelines and that they need to use our Purchasing system. An app for selling digital books as well. We should ask them to get back to us with a plan on how they will get their app in line with the rules. Based on our past discussions, I expect that they may choose not to do so. Then we’ll likely have to decide whether to pull the Kindle app out of the store or else continue to allow an exception to our terms and guidelines for the Kindle app.

These conversations were taking place as Apple was also planning to announce new App Store policies for subscriptions. In his response, Jobs said Apple could tell Amazon “it wants to use our payment system to the fullest” and said the change was caused by new newspaper and magazine subscription policies. “If they want to compare us to Android, let’s force them to use our far superior payment system,” Jobs wrote.

“It’s time for them to use our payment mechanism or stop by,” Jobs said in a separate email. In response to an email from Cue, Jobs also stressed that iBooks were the only library on iOS devices:

I think this is pretty simple – iBooks will be the only library on an iOS device. We need to keep our heads high. One can read books bought elsewhere, just don’t buy / rent / subscribe from iOS without paying us, which we recognize is prohibitive for many things.

Next time you try to buy a book in the Kindle app from an iPhone or iPad, you may be reminded of these emails and what led to the change in the first place: a Kindle TV ad that Schiller didn’t like him. Needless to say, it could also be argued that it was correct for Apple to stop providing Amazon with an exception to the App Purchase requirements in the first place.

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