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

The decision follows a similar one in the U.S. earlier this year. Will the result be a disaster for smaller imprints and authors who will lose out to Amazon’s strong-arm pricing tactics?

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.

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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.

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.

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