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Apple Backs Down In European Antitrust Case, Leaving Coast Clear For Amazon

Apple and a group of the world's leading book publishers have thrown in the towel in their European battle to keep their pricing agreements in place. An announcement by the European Commission says that publishers Hachette, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster will no longer give preferential treatment to Apple. The result has handed victory on a silver platter to Amazon, which will still be allowed to slash book prices on a whim, just in time for its Old-Continent launch of the Kindle Fire.

The key points of the ruling are these: Publishers will not interfere in any discounting practices by resellers; and any price agreements between publishers and Apple are verboten for another five years—by then, the assumption is, the market will be developed enough to cope with it. Both Apple and the four publishers have professed themselves to be in disagreement with the Commission's preliminary assessment.

Any existing contracts between the four publishing houses and smaller online retailers are to be renegotiated, and some older contracts limiting their ability to reduce book prices will be ripped up, continues the ruling. A fifth publishing house, although not mentioned by name, is thought to be Penguin, which also enjoys a price agreement with Apple.