Amazon wins an e-book fight in Europe

European Union regulators ended an antitrust probe into e-book prices after Apple and other publishers offered to abandon the possibility of pricing agreements that would have hindered Amazon selling e-books more cheaply than their rivals.

Dominick Reuter/Reuters
Settlements on both sides of the Atlantic favored Amazon.

Chalk it up as another win for Amazon, this time on European shores, in an e-book antitrust investigation that has roiled publishers on both sides of the Atlantic.

European Union regulators ended an antitrust probe into e-book prices on Thursday after accepting an offer by Apple and four publishers to drop pricing agreements aimed at preventing Amazon from undercutting e-book prices.

The settlement marks a clear victory for Amazon, allowing it to sell e-books more cheaply than rivals. (We reported on the proposed deal last month.)

“The commitments proposed by Apple and the four publishers will restore normal competitive conditions in this new and fast-moving market, to the benefit of the buyers and readers of e-books,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said, according to Reuters.

Under the deal, Apple and four publishers – Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette Livre, and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, owner of German company Macmillan – will abandon agency pricing, in which publishers set e-book pricing, and allow retailers to set e-book prices. According to settlement terms, retailers can cut e-book prices and offer discounts for a period of two years. And the publishers must suspend “most favored nation” contracts for five years. These contracts effectively barred publishers from selling e-books at prices lower than Apple’s. 

As a result of the deal, writes the UK’s Guardian, “Readers should prepare for plunging e-book prices.”

Pearson’s Penguin group, which is also under investigation in Europe, was not part of the settlement.

Thursday’s settlement marked “a key development in an investigation into the e-book industry that has involved both sides of the Atlantic,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. The European deal comes on the heels of a similar decision Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, and Hachette reached with the Department of Justice earlier this year. Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin continue to fight the DOJ suit in the U.S. The settlements on both sides of the Atlantic, both in favor of Amazon, will likely impact the ongoing suit.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Amazon wins an e-book fight in Europe
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today