John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

The Apple iBooks Origin Story

steve_jobs_ibooksHow’s this for irony: Steve Jobs was initially opposed to entering the e-book market over which Apple is now sparring with the U.S. Department of Justice in a Manhattan federal court.

Testifying in the DOJ’s e-book price-fixing case Thursday, Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet software and services, said that when he first approached Jobs with the idea of a bookstore in the fall of 2009, the Apple co-founder dismissed it.

“He wasn’t interested,” Cue said. “Steve never felt that the Mac or the iPhone were ideal reading devices. In the case of the phone, the screen was smaller, and in the case of the Mac, you had this keyboard and device, and it didn’t feel like a book.”

But as Apple began ramping up for the launch of the iPad, Cue broached the idea again, and Jobs had a change of heart.

“… When I got my first chance to touch the iPad, I became completely convinced that this was a huge opportunity for us to build the best e-reader that the market had ever seen,” Cue said. “And so I went to Steve and told him why I thought [the iPad] was going to be a great device for e-books. … and after some discussions he came back and said, you know, I think you’re right. I think this is great, and then he started coming up with ideas himself about what he wanted to do with it and how it would be even better as a reader and store.”

That was the “good part,” Cue explained, and it inspired Apple to approach publishers about selling their e-book titles. But there was a “bad part,” as well: Timing.

“This was in November,” said Cue. “We were launching the iPad in January. And so Steve said, ‘you can go do this, but you’ve got to get it done by January. … I want to be able to demo it onstage.’ And so that was the sort of challenge presented to me.”

And a challenge that Cue took upon himself to complete not just for Apple and the promise of a new revenue stream, but for Jobs, whose health was in decline at the time.

“Steve was near the end of his life when we were launching the iPad, and he was really proud of it,” Cue said. “He was working hard on it. I believed that iBooks was going to be a tremendous feature of the product. People were going to love it; our customers were just going to go wild about iPad and iBooks, and I wanted to be able to get that done in time for [the event] because it was really important to him. … I like getting my work done and I pride myself on being successful, but this had extra meaning to me.”


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald