Apple has been dealt a blow in the legal row over whether it fixed the price of ebooks, after a US judge said there was strong evidence that the technology giant was involved in a conspiracy with publishers.
The Department of Justice’s file against Apple includes a damning email from Steve Jobs, its now-deceased founder, to James Murdoch, the deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation, whose HarperCollins book operation was one of the publishers accused of collusion.
Setting out the choices HarperCollins faced, Mr Jobs told Mr Murdoch: “Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream, ebooks market as $12.99 and $14.99.”
The alternative would be for publishers to “keep going with Amazon” and watch their slice of the profits from ebooks become smaller and smaller over time. “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 70pc of $9.99,” Mr Jobs said.
Publishers were seriously concerned that Amazon was pricing ebooks too low, putting a serious dent in their balance sheets and setting consumer expectations so that it would be virtually impossible to raise prices again in the future.
They were also worried that Amazon, which has around 70pc of the ebook market in Britain, would have publishers over a barrel should it want to demand better terms in the future.