Three e-book publishers are nearing a settlement over an e-book price-fixing case in the US and Europe, according to sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal. But not everyone is on board—Apple and two other publishers are allegedly holding out, though the situation was described as “fluid” and could change as a lawsuit filing looms.
Apple and five publishers came under fire from the European Commission in December for allegedly colluding to fix the prices of e-books in an attempt to cripple Amazon’s then-popular $9.99 e-book model. The EU investigation was quickly followed by one in the US conducted by the US Department of Justice, and in late March, the two agencies said they were working together to investigate the case. The DoJ has yet to file a formal lawsuit against Apple and the five publishers—Hachette Livre, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Macmillan—but rumors of a settlement have been floating about for weeks, indicating that some of the publishers are eager to put the situation to rest.
According to the Journal‘s sources, one possible option for a settlement in this case would be for the contracts between the publishers and Apple on e-book pricing to be invalidated, and for the publishers to begin allowing Amazon to set its own prices on their e-books again. This would most likely mean lower e-book prices for consumers, though this is likely also why Apple and two publishers are resisting the settlement—publishers like being able to set their own (usually higher) prices, and Apple likes making more money than it would with lower e-book prices. The settlement terms have reportedly not yet been finalized, however, so things could still change before the EU and DoJ decide what their final course of action is.