The Tech News Blog

July 10, 2013

Apple Found Guilty of E-Book Price Fixing


Apple was dealt a setback on Wednesday when a New York district judge found that Cupertino is guilty of e-book price fixing.

The Justice Department showed that publishers "conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, and that Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy," Judge Denise Cote wrote in her ruling.

Apple "changed the face of the e-book industry," but not in a good way, Judge Cote concluded. "Without Apple's orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did in the Spring of 2010."

The case dates back to April 2012, when the DOJ sued Apple and five publishers - Macmillan, Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster - over an alleged "illegal conspiracy" involving e-book price fixing. The publishers settled with the government, but Apple fought back and the case went to court early last month.

According to the DOJ's case, Apple conspired with publishers to raise the price of e-books from the $9.99 charged by Amazon to $12.99 or $14.99. In order to do that, Apple encouraged the publishers to embrace an "agency" model, whereby publishers set the prices and distributors like Apple and Amazon take a cut of the sale. If the publishers conspired to set e-book prices, Amazon would be forced to accept the higher prices.

May 22, 2013

Penguin Settles E-Book Price-Fixing Suit for $75 Million

How to Buy an Ebook Reader

Book publisher Penguin today announced a $75 million deal that settles a class-action lawsuit over e-book price-fixing.

The deal must still be approved by the court, but if it goes through, consumers who overpaid for e-books thanks to the price-fixing scheme could get a cut of that $75 million.

This case dates back to April 2012, when the Department of Justice filed suit against Apple and five other publishers for an alleged "illegal conspiracy" involving e-book price fixing. At the time, Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin planned to fight the government, while Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster agreed to a proposed settlement. Macmillan and Penguin later settled, but Apple is fighting the case.

The investigation, however, prompted a number of consumer lawsuits, which were eventually consolidated into one class-action suit. Today, in cooperation with 33 state attorneys general, Penguin announced a settlement to that suit.

"This proposed settlement is a powerful demonstration of what is possible when federal, state and private class antitrust enforcement lawyers work together," Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, said in a statement. "In this case, the level of cooperation was unprecedented, and the results that we were able to deliver to the states and consumers demonstrate that."

March 25, 2013

FAA Might Let Travelers Use Tablets During Takeoff, Landing

ipad plane

Among the various modern-day requirements for air travel, the ban on electronic devices during takeoff and landing has been the topic of much debate. Will my iPod touch or Kindle really interfere with the operation of a plane?

While your smartphone will likely have to remain in the off position for the foreseeable future, theNew York Times reports that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) might start allowing the use of e-readers and tablet devices during take-off and landing, provided they are switched to airplane mode.

A government-industry group set up in Aug. 2012 to study the use of portable electronic devices on airplanes will likely announce by year's end that it will soften rules on portable gadgets, the Times said, citing a member of the group and an FAA official. That will enable you to continue reading an e-book or magazine while waiting in that long runway line or as your plane makes its final approach.

An FAA spokeswoman pointed to the industry group announcement from last year, and said only that "the group has not made recommendations, yet."

"We're looking for information to help air carriers and operators decide if they can allow more widespread use of electronic devices in today's aircraft," Acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said last year. "We also want solid safety data to make sure tomorrow's aircraft designs are protected from interference."

January 24, 2013

Amazon Acquires Text-to-Speech Firm Ivona Software

Amazon Kindle Text-To-Speech

Amazon today announced its acquisition of Ivona Software, a leading text-to-speech technology company that already powers some Kindle Fire features.

Details about the deal are scant, but Amazon said in a release that Ivona's text-to-speech, voice guide, and explore-by-touch functions are available on its Fire tablets, and are utilized by developers, businesses, and customers globally.

"The Ivona team shares our passion for innovation and customer obsession, and we look forward to building great products to deliver world-class voice solutions to customers around the world," Amazon Kindle vice president, Dave Limp, said in a statement.

The text-to-speech option converts written text into human speech to be read aloud to tablet owners. Ivona boasts voice and language portfolios with 44 voices in 17 languages, and is currently developing more, according to Amazon.

"For more than 10 years, the Ivona team has been focused on creating innovative text-to-speech technologies," Lukasz Osowski, CEO of Ivona, said in a statement. "We are thrilled that Amazon is supporting our growth so that we can continue to innovate and deliver exceptional voice and language support for our customers."

Financial details of the deal were not released.

December 28, 2012

Study: Ebooks Slowly Overtaking Physical Books

How to Buy an Ebook Reader (Update)

Physical books seem to be going the way of brick-and-mortar bookstores in the Digital Age.

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, the e-book-reading population is on the rise in the United States, growing to 23 percent of all Americans 16 and older in 2012. Digital books aren't simply becoming more trendy—purchases of printed books actually fell 5 percent in the same age group this year.

The changes, according to study authors Lee Rainie and Maeve Duggan, coincide with increased U.S. ownership of electronic book-reading devices—meaning an e-reader, a tablet, or both. In 2012, the percentage of Americans owning e-readers was 19 percent, up from 10 percent last year. Meanwhile, November stats point to about 25 percent of Americans ages 16 and older owning a tablet like Apple's iPad or Amazon's Kindle Fire .

Unsurprisingly, those people who are more educated (with college or graduate degrees), more wealthy (earning more than $75,000 per year), and older (between 30 and 49) are the most likely to have digital book-reading devices.

July 24, 2012

Opponents of Apple E-Book Case Say Amazon is Real Threat

How to Buy an Ebook Reader

The Justice Department today released some of the comments it received regarding the ongoing Apple e-book price-fixing case, and many of those opposed to the deal argued that the alleged price fixing helped stop Amazon's stronghold on the e-book market.

In total, the DOJ received 868 comments from individuals, publishers, booksellers, and even Apple.

"Those in support largely commented favorably on the government's efforts to end the conspiracy that cost e-book purchasers millions of dollars, and restore competition to the e-book market," the DOJ said in its response to those comments, which were filed with a New York district court today. "Critical comments generally were submitted by those who have an interest in seeing consumers pay more for e-books, and hobbling retailers that might want to sell e-books at lower prices."

In its comments, Apple said that the DOJ is looking to "impose a business model" that will re-establish Amazon's e-book monopoly, charges the DOJ denied.

The issue dates back to April, when the DOJ filed suit against Apple, as well as five other publishers, over an alleged "illegal conspiracy" involving e-book price fixing.

April 13, 2012

Apple: DOJ’s E-Book Price Fixing Charges ‘Not True’

Apple this week denied any wrongdoing regarding the pricing structure for books sold via iBooks, arguing that its entry into the market helped collapse Amazon's monopolistic hold on the industry.

"The DOJ's accusation of collusion against Apple is simply not true," Apple said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced that it had filed suit against Apple and five other publishers over an alleged "illegal conspiracy" involving e-book price fixing. Apple, as well as publishers Macmillan and Penguin, plan to fight the charges, while Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster have agreed to a proposed settlement.

Beginning in 2009, publishing executives met with Apple during near-quarterly meetings to discuss competition issues, including Amazon's e-book pricing, "as part of a conspiracy to raise, fix, and stabilize retail prices," according to Attorney General Eric Holder.

April 12, 2012

Australia Reportedly Examining Apple E-Book Price Fixing Issue

The controversy of e-book price fixing has reportedly made its way to Australia. According to The Australian Financial Review, the country's consumer watchdog is asking local booksellers with concerns about the e-book market to make their issues known.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) declined to comment on whether or not it too would pursue collusion charges against the likes of Apple and major book publishers, but it is reportedly exploring its options.

"Competition concerns may arise where traders seek to restrict the discounting of products by way of restrictive arrangements with suppliers," the ACCC told the Financial Review.

The news comes one day after the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it had sued Apple and five major book publishers over an alleged "illegal conspiracy" involving e-book price fixing. Apple, as well as publishers Macmillan and Penguin, plan to fight the charges, while Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster have agreed to a proposed settlement, according to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Australian and U.S. officials are not the only ones examining the issue. In December, the European Commission announced that it had opened a formal antitrust investigation into e-book price fixing.

April 11, 2012

DOJ Sues Apple, Publishers Over ‘Illegal’ E-Book Pricing Scheme

How to Buy an Ebook Reader

As expected, the Department of Justice on Wednesday announced that it had filed suit against Apple, as well as five other publishers, over an alleged "illegal conspiracy" involving e-book price fixing.

Apple, as well as publishers Macmillan and Penguin, plan to fight the charges, while Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster have agreed to a proposed settlement, Attorney General Eric Holder said during a press conference today.

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, meanwhile, was on hand to announce that 16 states - led by Texas and Connecticut - also filed their own lawsuit against Apple, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster on similar grounds.

According to Sharis A. Pozen, acting assistant attorney general within the DOJ's antitrust division, the scheme resulted in consumers paying about $2-3 more for e-books than they might have without the arrangement, or about $100 million in total.

"Our goal was to restore competition to the marketplace," Pozen said today.

April 11, 2012

Report: Justice Department Sues Apple Over E-Book Price Fixing

The Justice Department has filed suit against Apple and five major publishers for alleged e-book price fixing.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, the DOJ filed in Manhattan federal court today, arguing that Apple and the publishers - Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, Pearson, PLC's Penguin Group (USA), and Macmillan, a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH - agreed to a deal whereby there would be no price competition, e-book prices would increase, and Apple would receive a 30 percent cut of each e-book sold.

The DOJ did not immediately have a comment on the reports, but Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to hold a press conference on a "significant antitrust matter" at noon today in Washington, D.C.

He will be joined by Sharis A. Pozen, acting assistant attorney general with the antitrust division, and George Jepsen, Connecticut Attorney General.

Reports of a price-fixing DOJ probe were reported in March, but the issue picked up steam last year. In August, a Seattle-based law firm filed a class-action lawsuit against Apple and several major publishers, accusing them of colluding to increase e-book pricing and forcing Amazon to ditch e-book discounts.