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Did Apple's ebook sales model help lower costs for consumers by attacking Amazon?

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The Wall Street Journal claims that agreements between Apple and publishers to raise ebook prices are actually a competitive attempt to break Amazon's hold on the industry, and that they may have led to better prices for customers.

kindle ibooks
kindle ibooks

The European Commission and US Department of Justice allege that Apple and several publishers have been collaborating to raise the price of ebooks, but The Wall Street Journal argues that if anything, Apple and others are trying by break Amazon's own monopoly on the ebook market. In the past couple of years, says L. Gordon Crovitz, "thanks to the agency model, the Kindle's market share has fallen to 60 percent [from 90 percent] thanks to competition from iPads and Barnes & Noble Nooks, and there is more variation in consumer prices, typically ranging from $5.95 to $14.95" instead of Amazon's standard $9.99. By working together to raise ebook prices, publishers were acting defensively to let market-set numbers prevail.

He also points out that Apple takes the same 30 percent cut from games and other apps as it does from ebooks and newspapers, which could make a price-fixing case harder to argue. However, although the Technology Liberation Front article Crovitz cites addresses the other claims, like Apple's offering of "Most Favored Nation" status to publishers in exchange for matching iBookstore prices with the lowest prices from other competitors, Crovitz focuses primarily on what he sees as Apple fighting Amazon's "anti-competitive business model." Unfortunately, it's unclear whether prices have actually dropped for most buyers, or whether the move to Apple's model is really as consumer-driven as he claims.