If you purchased an ebook between April 2010 and May 2012, you could be rich! That’s because three major book publishers settled a class-action lawsuit with forty-nine of the fifty American states (sorry Minnesota residents) and other territories, a suit that claimed Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster colluded to inflate ebook prices. Two other publishers, Penguin and Macmillan, refused to settle and will go to court next year to argue their case.
According to an email I received from Amazon.com this weekend, those affected by the suit should expect to receive (once the case is finalized next year) a credit on their accounts based on items they purchased from the three publishers: $1.32 for all New York Times Bestsellers, and $0.30 for everything else. Readers who made these purchases from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, or Kobo don’t have to do anything; the credit will appear on their accounts. Refunds from Google, Sony, and other retailers require additional paperwork.
The Amazon email I received calls this a win for readers. But readers were already winning. The typical ebook price, even for New York Times Bestsellers, is typically half to one-third of the equivalent hardcover edition. If these major publishers were colluding to raise prices on books and control the market, they were doing a lousy job at it. It always amazes me that someone would sue a company for what already amounts to be a great deal. The lawsuit also gives booksellers like Amazon more discretion in setting the prices of individual books, which does seem reasonable.
If you are a lover of class-action lawsuits or simply want more details on the case, visit the settlement web site, ebooksagsettlements.com.