Pressure Mounting for Judge Cote to Reject E-Book Settlement

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Bookstore chain Books-A-Million and a group of independent publishers are two of the latest parties to come out against the proposed e-book price-fixing settlement between Hachette, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins and the Department of Justice.

According to Publishers Lunch, publishers Abrams Books, Chronicle Books, Grove/Atlantic, Chicago Review Press, New Directions Publishing, W.W. Norton, Perseus Books Group, The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group and Workman Publishing have signed a 28-page letter coming out against the settlement.

The letter claims that the settlement “should be rejected because it is not in the public interest and lacks an adequate factual basis.” The main arguments are that agency sales agreements are legal; that the settlement would hurt competition in the book publishing industry long-term because Amazon, the largest bookseller in the U.S., would drive out competitors through predatory pricing practices; and that it would be difficult or impossible to enforce some of the terms of the settlement when it came to restricted e-book discounting.

The settlement, if approved, would prevent the settling publishers from entering into an agency sales agreement with any retailer for two years and would allow for e-book retailers to discount their products up to a point — a hard provision to enforce, according to some who have come out against the settlement.

Legal experts familiar with the matter told Digital Book World that Judge Denise Cote, the presiding judge on the case, will consider the public comments but will likely approve the settlement. Both parties, the Department of Justice and the publishers, agreed to the settlement and in that case in antitrust matters such as this the judge usually approves it.

For Apple and the two publishers named in the Department of Justice e-book price-fixing lawsuit that did not settle, a trial will begin on June 3, 2013, nearly a year after the settlement will be ruled on.

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