Legal Troubles

DOJ Alleges Stylishly Shady Collusion To Fix Ebook Prices

Apple and five major publishers get slapped with antitrust suits
jeff bezos2 DOJ Alleges Stylishly Shady Collusion To Fix Ebook Prices

Laughing on the inside

Ever since the advent of the agency model for ebook pricing–the oh-so-valuable wedge publishers needed to fight Amazon’s $9.99 price point–it’s been the big question: Are they actually going to get away with this? Today we have our answer: Not if the Department of Justice has anything to say about it! Alleging collusion to fix prices the agency has filed an antitrust suit against Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Apple itself.

The allegations are awfully cloak-and-dagger. If true, they suggest the publishing industry has carried over a certain old-world stylishness into the digital age. From the filing (courtesy of the Verge):

Starting no later than September of 2008 and continuing for at least one year, the Publisher Defendants’ CEOs (at times joined by one non-defendant publisher’ s CEO) met privately as a group approximately once per quarter. These meetings took place in private dining rooms of upscale Manhattan restaurants and were used to discuss confidential business and competitive matters, including Amazon’s e-book retailing practices.

Emphasis most definitely ours. We like to imagine these meetings looked a little something like this.

Cut to Cupertino:

On February 19, 2009, Apple Vice President of Internet Services Eddy Cue explained to Apple CEO Steve Jobs in an e-mail, “[a]t this point, it would be very easy for us to compete and I think trounce Amazon by opening up our own ebook store.”

As of this moment, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster have already settled. Apple and MacMillan, on the other hand, may well fight: Bloomberg reports they’ll argue that, by pushing back against Amazon’s overwhelming dominance, the agreements actually increased competition in the space.

Amazon, meanwhile, called the move a “big win for Kindle owners” and promised, “We look forward to being allowed to lower prices on more Kindle books.”

Where’s a GIF of that laugh when we need it?

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com