eBooks Lawsuit Reveals the Ugliness of Digital Pricing, and a Sour Apple

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A few months ago, a lawsuit surrounding the pricing model of ebooks was filed against Apple, and the five biggest publishers in America. Three of the five publishers quickly bowed out, agreeing to pay the damages demanded, $0.25 to $1.32 per ebook sale, depending on how old the book was. What makes the lawsuit interesting is that it isn’t the publishers that must pay, but the online vendors that made the actual sales. This is effectively passing the buck to Amazon, Google, Sony, B&N, and Apple, the only vendor named in the suit. To simply answer why Apple was named, it was because the timing of the publishers deciding on the ebook agency pricing model coincided with Apple’s deal with them to start selling ebooks on iTunes.

So what does this mean to consumers? Well, according to this article, all ebook buyers from the past three years will be getting a refund, at some unforeseen time in the future. This date could hinge on the remaining contenders agreeing to pay up, but they seem content in fighting for money they won’t be losing. The publishers, in fact, only stand to win, since the refunds will mostly be given as store credits that will most likely only be able to be spent on more ebooks. That leaves Apple, whom seemingly has gone sour over this whole thing.

Apple is claiming they did nothing wrong, and had no hand in the agreement to go to the agency pricing structure that ebooks are now sold under. What is vexing is that Apple is fighting over refunds that would directly go back into their pockets as iTunes credits, which the high probability that the items purchased will be more than these tiny amounts. It does nothing except show their refusal to admit they can do any wrong, even at an expense much greater than these refunds.

So it’s time for consumers to get angry. Not only should we be angry over the agency pricing that has set ebook prices, but we should be angry at Apple and the last two publishers, Macmillan and Penguin, for holding out. While the publishers may have something real to fight about, it is Apple that is doing this simply to save face. They would rather play the victim than give the millions of people that made them what they are today a quarter.

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