Digital Publishers, Booksellers Face Multiple Pricefixing Suits

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If the price of digital books has ever struck you as seeming too high, you’re not alone. Digital booksellers and major book publishers alike are facing no less than 17 class action lawsuits alleging digital price fixing.

The initial lawsuit, against Apple and five publishers, was filed in California in August, and followed the next day by a New York-based lawsuit against the same publishers. Fifteen more lawsuits followed, and sources familiar with the lawsuits say that Amazon and Barnes & Noble have both been named in at least one of the 17 suits.

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At the heart of the argument is the concept of “Agency Pricing,” in which the publisher sets the price for digital books across all retailers, with the retailer receiving commission from the publishers. Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Penguin and Random House are the only American publishers who use Agency Pricing as a model currently, but the concern is that the publishers are so worried about cutting into print sales that the digital price is being set prohibitively high for customers.

Lawyers for the defendants have asked a special panel called the Judicial Panel for Multidistrict Litigation to consolidate all 17 class action suits into one, allowing for the legal battle to be fought once (Well, until the inevitable appeals), but no decision has been made as yet.

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[via paidContent]

Graeme McMillan is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @Graemem or on Facebook at Facebook/Graeme.McMillan. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.