Email from Steve Jobs reveal why iOS users can’t directly buy Kindle books

The House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee has just released a slew of internal documents from Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google as part of its investigation into “Big Tech.” The documents reveal the behind-the-scenes action at large multinational companies, including a few email messages from none other than Apple co-founder Steve Jobs that reveal why iOS users can’t directly buy Kindle books in Amazon’s app.

Apple Books
Apple Books

Jay Peters for The Verge:

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
In one email from November 2010, marketing chief Phil Schiller wrote to Jobs, internet services lead Eddy Cue, and product marketing head Greg Joswiak about how Amazon was marketing the Kindle mobile app at the time as a way to easily read Kindle books across both an iPhone and an Android device. Jobs said, “[i]t’s time for Amazon to decide to use our payment mechanism or bow out [of the App Store],” and followed that with “[a]nd I think it’s time to begin applying this uniformly except for existing subscriptions (but applying it for new ones).”

In another conversation, Cue laid out a draft of new subscription policies for apps on the App Store on February 6th, 2011, days before Apple officially announced the new policies.

Jobs said: “I think this is all pretty simple — iBooks is going to be the only bookstore on iOS devices. We need to hold our heads high. One can read books bought elsewhere, just not buy/rent/subscribe from iOS without paying us, which we acknowledge is prohibitive for many things.”

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s App Store, which costs money to run, has rules for developers to follow to implement In-App Purchase. Developers are not forced to offer In-App Purchase and some do not, as evidenced by the Amazon Kindle app. Kindle books that users have purchased on Amazon automatically appear in the iOS app. Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime members can select and download Kindle books directly in the iOS app.

More information about Apple’s In-App Purchase here.


  1. The Steve Jobs plan would have been fine if Apple had taken iBooks seriously, but they didn’t. It starts at the app icon. Compare the tasteful, inviting Kindle app icon with the generic, ugly one Apple uses for iBooks.

    And Apple never made a separate website exclusively for the iBooks store.

    iBooks selection is inferior to the Kindle store. Etc.

    And though the Kindle app could be better in certain respects, it is a lot better than the iBooks app.

    I rarely buy a book on iBooks, though I wish I could.

  2. In-App purchases for Kindle on iOS (as well as probably any other contact point that takes a ‘cut’) could have easily gone a different way. Amazon would agree to paying the cut but pass that cost onto the consumer as a ‘convenience fee’ for purchasing through an App rather than at their website via browser.

  3. When a corporation gets big enough, it starts gaining government-like powers and starts needing government-like accountability. Microsoft claimed they “weren’t a monopoly” because Apple was there, even though most buyers wouldn’t even consider buying Apple’s products. In a world where everyone has tablets, it similarly doesn’t make sense to have a stand-alone book reader.

    And there are only two companies that make OSes for Tablets.

    1. e-ink is a compelling technology if you are looking to peruse books with times between charges usually measured in weeks vs hours with other mobile devices.

      Tying FireOS with Android, iOS and Win10 make 3. But if you are saying tablet specific, not just used in tablets you would be correct.

      1. e-ink just isn’t a good enough reason to buy a whole second tablet and carry it around. An iPhone is something you just reflexively take with you everywhere; like your keys or wallet. And once you have it, you are better off taking a charger with you than a whole second device. Apple has certainly earned it’s profits from creating such an essential device, but I think Apple would not have survived without anti-trust against Microsoft, so they ought to do better than them, now that they are on the other side.

        1. I do quite a bit of reading and find my nook a very useful device to have with me in addition to my smartphone. It’s much quicker to charge the nook with a powerbank than my smartphone for the hours I spend reading when otherwise away from other power sources not to mention I can stretch out the time between charging that too.

          e-ink devices are very useful not just for ebooks but the larger panels (up to 42″ currently) are great for architectural plans and interactive displays. They just have their uses where LCD/LED technologies are just too power hungry.

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