Antitrust trial reveals Apple discussed Amazon deal to split control of music and books

The issue of e-book prices, and alleged price fixing, has come up again and again in recent years, with the focus most recently shifting to a Manhattan courtroom where Apple is at the center of an antitrust trial. After revealing new details of the company's market share yesterday, Apple's Eddy Cue has today offered another piece of surprising news: that he and Steve Jobs once discussed a potential deal that would see Apple stay out of the ebook market if Amazon agreed stayed out of music. There's no indication that went beyond the early discussion phase, or actually involved any discussions with Amazon, but it would obviously raise considerable antitrust questions had it gone any further.

As CNET and The Verge report, the DOJ is hoping that revelation will bolster its case that Apple engaged in antitrust practices to inflate ebook prices across the market. On that front, Cue, who the DOJ describes as the "chief ringleader of the conspiracy," reportedly acknowledged that the prices of some ebooks did go up from April of 2010 (when it opened its iBookstore) through to 2012, but he attributed that to publishers unhappy with Amazon's $9.99 pricing. Cue's facing further questioning from Apple's attorneys this afternoon, with the trial expected to wrap up by the end of next week.

Update: AllThingsD has further testimony from Mr. Cue indicating that Steve Jobs didn't even want to build iBooks -- at least, not until he got his hands on the first iPad.