Settling up on eBook pricing


This has been sitting in my drafts folder for awhile, but it’s worth talking about now, as the topic continues to evolve and settlement money should be arriving soon.

For those not paying attention, lawsuits were filed against the largest book publishers and Apple for colluding to raise the price of eBooks, which had been held down by Amazon holding the line at a $9.99 price on many titles.  The change to what’s called the agency model of pricing put restrictions on pricing that attorneys general in just about every state fought.  The publishers opted to settle, and the result of that is a credit for each book purchased in a roughly two year window, anywhere between $0.30 (the average book by the publishers in question) and $1.32 (New York Times bestseller).

For purchasers from some of the big book sellers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the process is frictionless; credits will be placed in purchasers’ accounts for use on other purchases.  For others, the check request deadline has long passed.  Meanwhile, although the settlement was approved in February, a follow-up in March started a six-month clock that will expire in a few weeks, meaning people should finally see their share soon.

Ironically, the reason for the pricing change was to level the playing field, as Amazon was considered to be running away with the eBook market at the time.  Yet Barnes & Noble’s Nook division has long been struggling, and many suspect Apple’s iBooks sales, while certainly decent, haven’t been stellar. Of course, the numbers for most of these companies are shrouded in opaque statements, so it’s hard to know for sure, but at least in Amazon and Apple’s cases, they’re clearly not going anywhere anytime soon.

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