United States Government accusations that Apply conspired with major book publishers to fix the price of e-books are meeting with strong denial from Apple. The action is estimated to have cost consumers more than US$100 million ($121 million) in the past two years, adding $5 to the price of each ebook on Apples iPad. Apple retains almost one-third of the list price. Apple is the main competitor to Amazon in the ebook market.
Settlements have been reach with publishers Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Shuster but proceedings against Apple and Holtzbrinck Publishers [trading as Macmillan, and Penguin Publishing Co Ltd] are ongoing.
It is claimed that Amazon was forced to follow Apple’s lead and raise prices on ebooks for its Kindle reader.
The EU is launching a similar inquiry.
Amazon has its own ebook Kindle Store, but also sells book on behalf of third party book stores.
Most publishers were seeking to sell ebook versions at the same price as the print versions – averaging $15 for fiction, but Amazon were selling them at only US$9.99. Publishers claimed this was too low, so using Apple’s “agency” model set the customer price directly, at whatever level they wanted. The agreement stipulated that Publishers would not let anyone else sell e-books for less than Apple.
It’s hard to see how, with the large number of self publishers now releasing books on Kindle, and setting their own prices at will, that any price fixing would be sustainable. What do you think?