Publishers Claim Recent DOJ E-Book Decision Punishes Them More Than Apple

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Not too surprisingly, the five major publishers originally named in the U.S. Department of Justice’s e-book case regarding their collusion with Apple on pricing have now themselves filed a complaint regarding the Justice Department’s proposal to eliminate the use of the agency model in any Apple agreements with publishers for a period of five years.

Publishers like the agency model as it allows them to set prices for e-books, instead of the distributor, as Amazon did before Apple’s own iBooks system launched on the iPad.

Apple has already slammed the proposal as draconian and punitive, but this is the first time the publishers have weighed in on the matter.

“The provisions do not impose any limitation on Apple’s pricing behavior at all; rather, under the guise of punishing Apple, they effectively punish the settling defendants by prohibiting agreements with Apple using an agency model,” said publishing house lawyers.

The Justice Department argued that, as the driving force behind the collusion, Apple used the fact that publishers weren’t happy with Amazon’s practice of pricing most e-books at $9.99, regardless of the publishers’ price points for paper copies. When Apple made agreements with the five major publishing houses, letting them set their own—usually higher—prices, the DOJ claimed, they caused e-book prices to rise.

HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, and Macmillan all settled with the court ahead of trial, leaving Apple as the sole defendant in the case. US District Judge Denise Cote found that Apple had colluded with the five named publishing houses to raise the price of electronic books. Apple plans to appeal the decision.

  • Paul Burt

    I still don’t get how Apple letting publishers charge what they want for their own products is colluding. Amazon is the ones who controls pricing so that they gain customers, with little regard for how much the publishers make. They seem more like the bullies here than Apple does. At least Apple is trying to let authors get paid appropriately for their work.

About the author

Rob LeFebvreAnchorage, Alaska-based freelance writer and editor Rob LeFebvre is Cult of Mac's Culture Editor. He has contributed to various tech, gaming and iOS sites, including 148Apps, VentureBeat, and Paste Magazine. Feel free to find Rob on Twitter @roblef

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