E-Book Price-Fixing Trial Date Set for June 2013, an Eternity Away in the E-Book Era

A month is an long time in an emerging market driven by new technology. A year is an eternity. By that logic, Judge Denise Cote has set the trial date for the Department of Justice’s e-book price-fixing lawsuit an eternity from now, June 3, 2013, according to multiple news reports.

Apple, Macmillan and Penguin will have to wait at least a year to find out whether their denial of collusion and price-fixing will hold up in court.

The three settling publishers in the matter, however, Hachette, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, will find out in just a month whether the settlement agreement they entered into with the Department of Justice will be approved by Judge Cote. Legal experts familiar with the case say the settlement is likely to be approved.

For the publishing industry, the dichotomy between the swiftness of the settlement and the delay of the trial presents an interesting prospect. For the next year or so, three of the largest U.S. publishers — Macmillan, Penguin and Random House — will likely continue to operate under the agency pricing model across all e-book retailers while the three settling publishers will likely be forced onto a different model.

The agency model and the most favored nation clause that the publishers have in their contract with Apple that mandates the model across all retailers that are at the heart of the government’s complaint will persist in the marketplace for at least another year. And in that time, who knows what could change in the digital book world?

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