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


As part of the Antitrust investigation of the House Judiciary Committee in Apple, lawmakers have released a number of internal emails from Apple. A collection of those emails provides new details on the long-standing battle with Amazon, allowing in-app purchases of e-books in the Kindle app.

As it is 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 they must use Safari to buy new ones. This is Amazon’s way of avoiding giving Apple a 30% share of ebook purchases, which would be needed if Amazon sold ebooks directly within the Kinds app.

It is important to remember that such a system was not always there. Until early 2011, you could buy Kindle e-books directly in the Kindle app on iOS. As open by first The ledgeTwo sets of emails included in internal documents include conversations between Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller, and other Apple executives about the situation.

In an email, Schiller reported that Apple initially made an exception for Amazon because “users were buying books on a Kindle device and later accessing them on the iPhone.” As Apple sold more iPhones, iPads and iPods, however, Schiller thought it was time to leave the exception.

In fact, what really inspired Schiller to reestablish this situation, according to the email, is that Amazon has run a series of ads about how you can still access your Kindle books if you Switch from iPhone to Android or vice versa. In an email, Schiller wrote:

I just saw a new Amazon Kindle app ad on TV. It starts with a woman who uses an iPhone and buys and reads books with the Kindle app. The woman then switches to an Android phone and can still read all her books. While the primary message is that there are Kindle apps on a lot of mobile devices, the secondary message that cannot be missed is that it is easy to switch from iPhone to Android. It is not fun to watch.

In a separate email, Schiller said:

I think we should tell Amazon that based on their own TV ads it is clear that their use of the app now violates our terms and guidelines and they need to use our in-app purchase system for digital book sales the wanted. We should ask them how they will get their app in compliance with the rules, come back to us with this plan. Based on our previous discussions, I hope they might not. Then we will need to decide whether to pull the Kindle app from the store or continue with the exception to our rules and guidelines for the Kindle app.

These conversations were happening as Apple was planning to announce new App Store policies for subscriptions. In his response, Jobs stated that Apple Amazon “should use our payment system for everything” and could say that the change was triggered by the subscription policies of new newspapers and magazines. “If they want to compare us to Android, force them to use our better payment system,” Jobs wrote.

“It’s time for them to use or bend our payment system,” Job said in a separate email. In response to an email from Q, Jobs also stressed that iBooks will be the only bookstore on iOS devices:

I think it’s all very simple – iBooks is going to be the only bookstore on iOS devices. We need to hold our head high. Someone else can read books purchased elsewhere, just does not buy / rent / subscribe to iOS without paying us, which we accept is prohibitive for many things.

The next time you try and buy a book in the Kindle app on an iPhone or iPad, you may be reminded of these emails and what will be the reason for this change at first: a Kindle TV ad that Schiller didn’t like . Of course, one could also argue that it was right for Apple to prevent Amazon from providing an exception to the in-app purchase requirements in the first place.

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