Ray Lee

Steve and Me

Anyone who has been following Linda’s blog over the last few months knows that MPP is busy preparing to offer its books in digital form for e-readers.  Our titles are already available in PDF format from our own www.ebooksbridge.com site, but to reach a wider audience, we need to convert them to the ePub format, which is fast becoming the industry standard.  Bridge material offers some technical challenges in this regard,  but we’re getting there.  We are hoping to have an agreement with Sony in place in the near future, and similarly with Apple, for their new iBookstore.

We were, of course, very excited by the new Apple iPad, since new products like this from Apple tend to be game-changers. So it was with some disappointment that we heard the Canadian release date had been rolled back from mid-April to some indefinite time in the future, possibly May.  However, we were determined to take advanatge of our vacation in Florida last week to secure one of the new devices, and see what our books looked like on it.

Arriving at our rented apartment last Sunday evening, we located the nearest Apple store, and headed out to it on Monday morning.  We were told no iPads were in stock (we expected that), and we duly put our name down for one when they did come in.  They would email us, we were told, if and when one arrived.  Off to lunch we headed, and it was not unexpected when I picked up an email on my iPhone, confirming our reservation and assuring me that we would be told the instant our iPad was available.  If you’ve ever been to an Apple store, you would, as we did, have every confidence this would happen, but even we were surprised when not half an hour later we got another message saying our iPad was now ready for pickup!

Back we went, picked up our iPad, and headed home to play with it.  First impressions were favorable – it looks like a big iTouch,  a device to which Linda has been umbilically attached since acquiring one last year.   However, delight turned to dismay when we logged in to iTunes and attempted to get at some apps.  As Canadians, it turned out we were entitled to access only the Canadian iTunes store, which – guess what – wasn’t offering iPad apps yet.  Without an iTunes account backed by a credit card billed to a US address (which we don’t possess), we couldn’t download anything – even the iBooks application (which in my view should have come with it, since the iPad is being sold as an e-reader).  The nice folks at the Apple store were genuinely sympathetic, but couldn’t do anything to help.

More than annoyed, my thoughts at this time turned to an old Peter Cooks and Dudley Moore comedy routine we’d listened to on our drive down.  The key part went like this:

Peter:  Do you remember World War II?  Dreadful business, don’t you think?

Dudley:  Well, yes, I think we all were against it.

Peter:  Yes, well – I wrote a letter.

It occurred to me that I had seen somewhere on the net that Steve Jobs could actually be contacted by email fairly easily, and I decided to try.  An hour later, having found a couple of likely email adresses, I sent him the following:

Dear Mr. Jobs

As a dedicated Mac supporter for many, many years, I have been looking forward immensely to the iPad as a probable game-changing device for reading ebooks.

Let me elaborate:  I own a book publishing company in Canada, and we have been working on converting digital versions of our titles from PDF to ePub format prior to making arrangements to offer them for sale in the Apple iBookstore.  We were disappointed when the iPad release in Canada was rolled back, but I am currently vacationing in Florida, and took the occasion to purchase an iPad, so I could take it home and have my staff begin testing our files.

Imagine my dismay, and astonishment, when I found that not only did the iBooks app not come loaded on the iPad, but I could not download this app, since I do not possess an iTunes account backed by a US-based credit card. No date has yet been announced for the iPad release in Canada, and until that date, I am apparently now the proud owner of a big iTouch.

Apple is promoting the purchase of the iPad in large part as an ebook reader.  I can’t imagine any reason for not either supplying or allowing the download of such a fundamental app as iBooks from Apple — but the result is that the iPad is useless to us for our work indefinitely, and we feel seriously discriminated against. We can’t be the only people in the world with this problem — surely there are people in the US who have sent iPads as gifts to friends and relatives in other countries, only to have them find the devices essentially useless.

Will you help us, or at least give me some kind of rational explanation a situation that to me is completely incomprehensible?

I wait your reply with great interest.

Yours sincerely,

Ray Lee


Master Point Press

I was intrigued to find that less than an hour later, I had a reply:

From: “Steve Jobs” <sjobs@apple.com>

Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 9:41pm

Subject: Re: Canadian ebook publisher needs your help

We have not yet launched in Canada yet.  I don’t think that is a secret.  Sorry.

Sent from my iPad

Now, I’m not so naïve as to think that my email really got through to the Man – I’m sure there’s a whole staff of people filtering Steve’s emails, and only passing on to him the ones deemed worthy.  On the other hand, the terse, rather snarky tone was suggestive… perhaps I really had got through.  So I thought it worth one more salvo:

“Yes, I know that”, I sent, “but that wasn’t my point.”

But answer came there none.  There it rests.  We still have no release date in Canada for the iPad, but when the iPad does arrive here, at least we won’t have to wait at the Apple store to buy our hardware.  Until then, Linda’s surfing and playing Sudoko on a much bigger screen.  Sigh.


Jeff SmithApril 27th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

You hit the nail on the head Ray, I would be shocked if the response you received was not from Steve directly. No one else would have the guts to respond in such a matter of fact (rude?) fashion.

Sounds like you need to bounce over to the local bank to get a US based credit card!

Soren HeinApril 27th, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Steve Jobs is known to respond to direct mails, and the tone seems right. I actually don’t find it rude.

Ross TaylorApril 27th, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Tech geniuses are not known for their tact. They are usually blunt and to the point. Alas.

Cam FrenchApril 27th, 2010 at 11:20 pm

I am with Ray.

Sounds like a flunkie to me who better brush up on their customer-service skills.

I think the real man (or a delegate with tact) might have said something like this:

Dear Mr. Lee,

Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.

I have passed your note along to my vice-president of international affairs and asked her to see how we might address your concern.

Thank you for your long-standing support of our products and sharing this issue with me.

From: “Steve Jobs”

Sent from my iPad

Judy Kay-WolffApril 28th, 2010 at 5:37 am


The intracacies of the computer world are foreign to me, but I cannot help sympathizing with your plight. I admire your stalwart pursuit of the problem and their irresponsible indifference are deserving of the notoriety spread by sharing your experience with blog readers all over cyberspace.

Good luck!


PaulApril 28th, 2010 at 9:23 am

I expect Steve’s reply is shorthand for a full response that includes the legal and regulatory issues involved in making such an application available to aliens, even when it might appear fundamental to the use of the product.

And, to be fair to Apple, if a product is not legally available in a country then supporting those who have acquired the product elsewhere is not a high priority. Is it worth breaking their appstore model? Probably not.

Early adopters always hit the problems. But you’ll be back … early adopters are resilient 🙂

LuiseApril 28th, 2010 at 12:46 pm


Judy raises an interesting point… But if you want to share your story on a larger scale, I suggest that you visit the apple support forums and leave your comment there. Perhaps if you display your rage and anger in a more “troll-like” voice, you may stir up several more responses than you have here. (perhaps someone more technically devious would even have a work-around for you?). You could attempt to make your post as thought-provoking as possible, to encourage people to post in support of your claim. If you have a few hundred responses on their forums, perhaps your point would be noticed then?

If you are successful at stirring up enough trouble over the matter, I would attempt a second email to Mr. Jobs, directing him to the thread. Perhaps he will take more interest in your point at that time.

You could start here: http://discussions.apple.com/category.jspa?categoryID=267

LuiseApril 28th, 2010 at 3:20 pm

My devious mind is at work again…

It occurred to me that all you really need is a trusted friend in the US who has an iTunes account… They could “Loan” you their login details, you could make the purchase of the iBook application that you need, upload it to your iPad, and then send them a check to cover the expenses on their credit card…

darrenApril 28th, 2010 at 6:17 pm

it is easy to create a US itunes account (from canada). Do this and then you can download ibooks.

Ray LeeApril 28th, 2010 at 9:49 pm

How do you do it? They want a US address for the credit card…

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