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Penguin and Macmillan 'flatly deny' ebook price-fixing claims in court filings

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Publishers Macmillan and Penguin have filed rebuttals of the US Department of Justice's case against them, denying that they colluded with Apple to fix ebook prices.

kindle ibooks
kindle ibooks

Several publishers have already settled with the US government after being accused of ebook price fixing, but Penguin and Macmillan have lashed out instead, accusing the Department of Justice of piling "innuendo on top of innuendo" while misinterpreting the facts it does possess. In a pair of court documents filed May 29th, the two companies "flatly denied" all but the most innocuous allegations, including claims that the companies had met to discuss raising prices. Though both companies said representatives had attended events at places like "The Chef's Wine Cellar," they said meetings were either purely social or held only for above-board joint ventures.

As others have done before, both companies accused Amazon of trying to monopolize the ebook industry by selling its $9.99 books at a loss, lauding Apple's work in bringing prices back up even while denying any conspiracy. "Books are not widgets," Penguin said in a criticism of Amazon. "They are highly differentiated written works imbued with literary, cultural, and intellectual significance." By extension, the Department of Justice "intentionally ignores" the pro-competitive nature of Penguin's work with Apple and instead "sides with a monopolist."

Like Penguin, Macmillan claimed that many of the lawsuit's elements were suspect or refutable. Apple, the publisher said, offered its commission-based agency model on a "take it or leave it basis" while the two were negotiating over iPad book sales, and Macmillan went into the decision unilaterally because it made sense for the industry. "Pre-agency model, the future of competition for ebook distribution and e-reader innovation was increasingly bleak." Macmillan and Penguin previously indicated that they would file complaints, so none of this is a huge surprise. However, it's another step in what will probably be a long and contentious lawsuit.