updated 11:46 pm EDT, Sat October 13, 2012
Payments a result of suit settlement with three publishers
As a result of a possible settlement between the Department of Justice and three publishers involved in a lawsuit regarding e-book price fixing, owners of Kindle e-readers will receive refunds on past e-book purchases. Amazon told Kindle owners on Saturday that they could receive a refund of between $0.30 and $1.32 per book for books purchased between April 2010 and May 2012.
The books must have been published by HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, or Hachette to qualify for a refund. If the settlement is approved by the supervising judge, the agreement will limit the publishers' ability to set e-book prices, which in theory will lead to lower costs for e-books. "We think these settlements are a big win for customers and look forward to lowering prices on more Kindle books in the future," Amazon told customers in the emails.
The three publishers, plus Apple had been accused of colluding in an attempt to sustain high prices for e-books, through contractual agreements that prohibited booksellers from offering discounts. The contracts were viewed as a way to compete against rival Amazon, which routinely sells select e-books at a loss as part of a broader strategy to promote the Kindle platform.
Many credit the iBookstore and Barnes & Noble's Nook store with dropping Amazon's market share of e-books from 90 percent to 60 percent, and it's suspected that Apple may be more likely to win than not if the DOJ goes to a full trial. Evidence provided by the DOJ itself pointed to publishers talking to each other at meetings regarding e-book pricing, but none where publishers were clearly talking to Apple at the same time.
The Department of Justice is only settling with three publishers, however it plans to proceed with its case against Apple and two other publishers, Macmillan and Penguin. The publishers that have agreed to the settlement proposal will be barred for two years from establishing contracts that place restrictions on price discounts or other promotions.