European Regulators Investigating Apple and e-Book Publishers over Antitrust Concerns

ibooksBloomberg reports that the European Commission has launched an antitrust investigation targeting Apple and five e-book publishers. The publishers targeted in the investigation include five of the six major book publishers: Hachette, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Macmillan.

PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a January report that European e-book sales have been sluggish, partly due to the small range of non-English titles and fixed price agreements between publishers and stores in 13 countries. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said last month that he wanted to fight “artificial restrictions imposed by some companies to cross-border trade” and was examining the way e-books are distributed.

Today’s probe “will in particular investigate whether these publishing groups and Apple have engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or the effect of restricting competition,” the Brussels-based authority said.

Apple has been targeted by a number of investigations and lawsuits related to its remaking of the book industry. With the launch of its iBookstore, Apple reached agreements with major publishers to adopt an "agency model" in which publishers retain control over sales prices and retailers receive a 30% share of that sales price. Previously, retailers had paid set wholesale prices for books and then priced them for sale at their discretion. With Apple driving the shift to an agency model, Amazon and other major retailers quickly followed suit.

Top Rated Comments

leroypants Avatar
161 months ago
The EU investigates when an ant crosses the road. Too much government.


The sounds like a waste of time, can you please link and cite that case where they investigated an ant crossing the road.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
charlituna Avatar
161 months ago
The EU investigates when an ant crosses the road. Too much government.

While I generally agree with you on that, this time there is an aspect that I think is well overdue. And that's about this notion of treating digital the same as physical. My issue with books and ebooks is this notion of territories and releasing in select countries only. I understand it a little for physical books because of sales tax, costs to print and ship etc. But for ebooks a lot of that is gone. The issue is generally that every publisher wants those rights and that money. But some kind of agreement should be possible. If this EU investigation forces them to make that agreement so that ebooks go worldwide at the same time then I say that's not a bad thing. In fact I hope they then do the same thing with TV and movies. Availability is a major excuse used by those that want to justify torrenting etc so drop that one off the list and move on to quality and pricing.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Leaping Tortois Avatar
161 months ago
Previously, retailers had paid set wholesale prices for books and then priced them for sale at their discretion. With Apple driving the shift to an agency model, Amazon and other major retailers quickly followed suit

This is not a good thing. Before ebooks were a maximum of $10 then apple comes along and agrees to the publishers demands (who know they're going out of business because they do nothing for ebooks except edit and screw over the author) which has risen the average cost of an ebook because these greedy publishers still want their slice of the pie for doing nothing at all. Apple should be fighting for the authors AND for the consumers. Take us back to the days when ebooks were $10. Apple could still keep their $3 per sale and send the $7 directly to the author (instead of a few cents), bypass the publishers entirely.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ChazUK Avatar
161 months ago
The EU investigates when an ant crosses the road. Too much government.

While I generally agree with you on that, this time there is an aspect that I think is well overdue. And that's about this notion of treating digital the same as physical. My issue with books and ebooks is this notion of territories and releasing in select countries only. I understand it a little for physical books because of sales tax, costs to print and ship etc. But for ebooks a lot of that is gone. The issue is generally that every publisher wants those rights and that money. But some kind of agreement should be possible. If this EU investigation forces them to make that agreement so that ebooks go worldwide at the same time then I say that's not a bad thing. In fact I hope they then do the same thing with TV and movies. Availability is a major excuse used by those that want to justify torrenting etc so drop that one off the list and move on to quality and pricing.
Perfectly put, thank you! :)

It would be nice to see a positive come out of this for the consumer.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Middling Avatar
161 months ago
I'm not sure when e-books were ever $10. Apple actually brought the commission down to 30%, when previously Amazon et al were taking 70% (and still are for some territories - see their e-publishing agreement for details)
It was 70% for people using Amazon's self-publishing system. The big publishers were never on that.

Previously ebooks were treated the same as physical books. The publishers set a RRP, and the sellers paid a wholesale price to the publishers which was a percentage of the RRP price (often around 50%). The sellers were then able to sell the book for whatever they wanted (just like every other commodity in the world), and in Amazon's case that was often at a loss to promote their Kindle devices.

Whatever the retailers sold at made no difference to the publisher's or author's bottom line.

The agency model is far worse for everyone's bottom line except for, ironically, the retailers who were previously selling at a loss.

The agency model has never been about the money, it's about control.

The agency model is illegal in the UK anyway (see Net Book Agreement (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_Book_Agreement)) so if the publishers have actually been engaging in it and Apple has actively helped them i hope they have the book thrown at them. :D
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Piggie Avatar
161 months ago
eBooks should always be dramatically cheaper that real books, as you have nothing that you physically own.

You can't sell the books, given them to charity, give them to your friends, and your friends give you you're to read.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 18 Siri Integrated Feature

iOS 18 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Friday April 12, 2024 11:11 am PDT by
iOS 18 is expected to be the "biggest" update in the iPhone's history. Below, we recap rumored features and changes for the iPhone. iOS 18 is rumored to include new generative AI features for Siri and many apps, and Apple plans to add RCS support to the Messages app for an improved texting experience between iPhones and Android devices. The update is also expected to introduce a more...
iOS NES Emulator Bimmy Feature

NES Emulator for iPhone and iPad Now Available on App Store [Removed]

Tuesday April 16, 2024 11:33 am PDT by
The first approved Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) emulator for the iPhone and iPad was made available on the App Store today following Apple's rule change. The emulator is called Bimmy, and it was developed by Tom Salvo. On the App Store, Bimmy is described as a tool for testing and playing public domain/"homebrew" games created for the NES, but the app allows you to load ROMs for any...
iGBA Feature

Apple Removes Game Boy Emulator iGBA From App Store Due to Spam and Copyright Violations

Sunday April 14, 2024 9:22 pm PDT by
Apple today said it removed Game Boy emulator iGBA from the App Store for violating the company's App Review Guidelines related to spam (section 4.3) and copyright (section 5.2), but it did not provide any specific details. iGBA was a copycat version of developer Riley Testut's open-source GBA4iOS app. The emulator rose to the top of the App Store charts following its release this weekend,...
Delta Feature

Delta Game Emulator Now Available From App Store on iPhone

Wednesday April 17, 2024 9:58 am PDT by
Game emulator apps have come and gone since Apple announced App Store support for them on April 5, but now popular game emulator Delta from developer Riley Testut is available for download. Testut is known as the developer behind GBA4iOS, an open-source emulator that was available for a brief time more than a decade ago. GBA4iOS led to Delta, an emulator that has been available outside of...
iGBA Feature

Game Boy Emulator for iPhone Now Available in App Store Following Rule Change [Removed]

Sunday April 14, 2024 8:06 am PDT by
A week after Apple updated its App Review Guidelines to permit retro game console emulators, a Game Boy emulator for the iPhone called iGBA has appeared in the App Store worldwide. The emulator is already one of the top free apps on the App Store charts. It was not entirely clear if Apple would allow emulators to work with all and any games, but iGBA is able to load any Game Boy ROMs that...
iPhone 15 Pro Action Button Translate

All iPhone 16 Models to Feature Action Button, But Usefulness Debated

Tuesday April 16, 2024 6:54 am PDT by
Last September, Apple's iPhone 15 Pro models debuted with a new customizable Action button, offering faster access to a handful of functions, as well as the ability to assign Shortcuts. Apple is poised to include the feature on all upcoming iPhone 16 models, so we asked iPhone 15 Pro users what their experience has been with the additional button so far. The Action button replaces the switch ...