That’s the provocative theory put forward by Sue Zoldak in an opinion piece on The Daily Caller blog.
She starts out by noting that in some cases hardcover prices are lower than e-book prices (something I’ve mentioned before myself), and points out that—unlike the iTunes deal that lowered the price of music when sold digitally—Jobs used publishers’ fears of Amazon to negotiate a rise in e-book prices. This came at the expense of Amazon, who was using exactly the same model to sell Kindles that Jobs had used to sell iPods.
The real question is, why the diametrically opposed philosophies by Steve Jobs? He wanted everyone to listen to music and revolutionized the music industry with the $0.99 song pricing model, so why doesn’t he want you to read $9.99 books? Why did he think it was important to bring music to the masses at a low price but that what book-lovers needed were higher prices?
She suggests one possibility might be that, thanks to the large captive audience built by the iPad and iPhone app stores (with an estimated 125 million credit card numbers on file with Apple) might mean that impulse e-book buying was easy enough that people wouldn’t need further incentive. But regardless, Zoldak feels, consumers won’t accept e-book prices that are higher than hardcover prices, and this pricing model will not “save” the industry.
Zodak also notes that this is leading to a rise in self-published books sold at much lower price points, and that consumers are continuing the practice of one-star protest-reviewing books that are priced higher in electrons than on paper. And strangely enough, in at least some cases the publishers are listening—an e-book mentioned prominently in a CNET article about the 1-star reviews was subsequently repriced to $2 less than the hardcover.
As for whether Jobs has an anti-book agenda, I doubt it. On the other hand, he did point out, years ago, that nobody reads much anymore, so maybe he just doesn’t think enough people will buy e-books to matter either way?