A settlement between the United States’ Department of Justice and three major e-book publishers has been reached today, and it will end an Apple price-fixing racket that was attempting to prevent Amazon from selling e-books for discounted prices. Apple will still have to defend themselves in court against anti-trust violations next year, but for now, their deal with the e-book publishers is effectively abolished by this settlement.
The three publishers involved were HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and HachetteBook Group; all of them had a deal with Apple that would keep the price of e-books artificially high, in an attempt to stop Amazon from discounting their e-book prices. Now that the deal has been nullified, Amazon will once again be free to offer cheap e-books to the masses.
Critics of the settlement say that reducing the prices of e-books back to where they were in 2010, before Apple made this agreement, will be bad news for brick-and-mortar book stores. If paper books can’t compete with the low costs of e-books, many book stores may find themselves in trouble as more people switch over to Kindles and similar devices.
Two other publishers, Penguin and Macmillan, failed to participate in the settlement, so they’ll be in court with Apple next June. In the mean time, Apple says they’re going to appeal the settlement, so consumers might not actually see e-book prices fall for another few months.