Amazon tells Kindle customers to expect buying credit, thanks to ebook price-fixing settlement

I bought my first ebook in 1999 and in recent years stopped purchasing print altogether. My wife is a relative ebook newbie, so I am surprised that she and not me received an email today from Amazon about a forthcoming purchasing credit. Perhaps you got a similar message.

In April, the Justice Department accused Apple and five publishers -- Hachette SA, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster -- of fixing ebook prices. Three publishers settled; MacMillan and Penguin, along with Apple, refused. The three publishers also settled with states attorneys general, agreeing to put $69 million in a fund for consumers. The Amazon purchasing credit is product of the settlement.

There's still a February hearing ahead before the settlement is approved (well, presumably), after which consumers receive anywhere from 30 cents to a buck thirty-two for each ebook purchased between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012.

Antitrust watchdogs accused the six parties of fixing prices by forcing a different selling model on ebook sellers -- one that guaranteed higher pricing. Apple sought the arrangement for iPad, which went on sale April 3, 2010 (hint: start date for the ebook settlement benefit is related).

In December 2010, I asked "Is someone fixing ebook prices?" after observing nearly uniform pricing across ebook stores. The Feds and states later answered that question "Yes".

Text of the email my wife received today:

Dear Kindle Customer,

We have good news. You are entitled to a credit for some of your past ebook purchases as a result of legal settlements between several major ebook publishers and the Attorneys General of most U.S. states and territories, including yours. You do not need to do anything to receive this credit. We will contact you when the credit is applied to your account if the Court approves the settlements in February 2013.

Hachette, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster have settled an antitrust lawsuit about ebook prices. Under the proposed settlements, the publishers will provide funds for a credit that will be applied directly to your account. If the Court approves the settlements, the account credit will appear automatically and can be used to purchase Kindle books or print books. While we will not know the amount of your credit until the Court approves the settlements, the Attorneys General estimate that it will range from $0.30 to $1.32 for every eligible Kindle book that you purchased between April 2010 and May 2012.

Alternatively, you may request a check in the amount of your credit by following the instructions included in the formal notice of the settlements, set forth below. You can learn more about the settlements here:

In addition to the account credit, the settlements impose limitations on the publishers’ ability to set ebook prices. We think these settlements are a big win for customers and look forward to lowering prices on more Kindle books in the future.

Thank you for being a Kindle customer.

The Amazon Kindle Team

More information about the states attorneys general settlement and benefits to you can be found here.

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