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The European Commission has announced that it is opening a formal antitrust investigation into whether five international e-book publishers have been practicing anti-competitive tactics with the help of Apple

The European Commission has launched an antitrust investigation Tuesday that will determine if international e-book publishers and Apple have been partaking in anti-competitive activities.

Back in March of this year, the European Commission raided various e-book firms to see whether the sale of e-books breached competition rules. Around the same time, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in the United Kingdom launched its own investigation into e-book prices. The European Commission and OFT had been working together through the year on the probe, but the OFT is now shutting its investigation down.

Now, the European Commission has announced that it is opening a formal antitrust investigation into whether five international e-book publishers have been practicing anti-competitive tactics with the help of Apple and its e-book store iBooks.

The five e-book publishers targeted in the investigation are Hachette Livre (Lagardère Publishing France), Harper Collins (News Corp., U.S.A.), Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp., U.S.A.), Penguin (Pearson Group, United Kingdom) and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck (owner of inter alia Macmillan, Germany).

"The Commission will in particular investigate whether these publishing groups and Apple have engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or effect of restricting competition in the EU or in the EEA," said the European Commission's press release. "The Commission is also examining the character and terms of the agency agreements entered into by the above named five publishers and retailers for the sale of e-books."

The European Commission noted that the opening of proceedings indicates that this antitrust case will be treated as a "matter of priority."

There has been quite a bit of e-book drama over the last few months. For instance, the Authors Guild posted an angry blog entry about Amazon's Kindle Owners' Lending Library, and just last month, Penguin suspended the availability of its e-books to libraries saying that libraries are not allowed to loan e-books for the Kindle. Penguin even went to business partner OverDrive asking that it eliminate its "Get for Kindle" button for Penguin books.

Source: Europa

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By nocturne_81 on 12/6/2011 1:20:10 PM , Rating: 1
Hmm... a device that only supports one available retailer and actively restricts using content from others.. anti-competitive..?

Then again, who cares? It's a business. Most users understand what Apple is all about when they buy their products -- hell, it's one of the primary selling points (putting all your eggs in one company's basket).

RE: Duh...
By tng on 12/6/2011 1:36:09 PM , Rating: 2
hell, it's one of the primary selling points (putting all your eggs in one company's basket).
They just make it easier for their primary customer base.

I have a 4G iPod and while I buy some music from iTunes, I also get stuff from Amazon and other places on the web, plus I still buy some limited CDs.

Allot of the people I know who own a iDevice are unaware that they can do it that way and never realize that the iTunes store does not have every piece of recorded music out there. These are the same people who will flaunt their new iDevice to you as some kind of victory.

I will never buy e-books simply because myself and my friends like to trade books. Simple just to read a book and then give it to a coworker that will like it. E-books are not that simple I think, can't just make copies or transfer them at the drop of a hat without violating copyrights.

RE: Duh...
By 3DoubleD on 12/6/2011 1:48:37 PM , Rating: 2
You bring up a good point here and I'm interested to hear people's view on this.

Case A: I buy a hardcover or paperback book and lend (which often turns into give) it to my friend.

Case B: I buy an e-book and tell my friend to download it for free and read on their e-reader.

If the difference in price between the physical and e-version of the book is only the printing price - is there a difference between cases A and B? e-books have yet to become REALLY cheap to a degree that I would feel like I'm buying a license rather than a book, so I am inclined to say the assumption above is correct and that there is no difference. I'd be interested to hear other views on that though. Cheers.

RE: Duh...
By nocturne_81 on 12/6/2011 1:58:39 PM , Rating: 3
As far as personal ethics go, I see no problem at all lending an eBook to a friend.. though it's obviously a violation of the license agreement you likely agreed to when making the purchase..

iUsers are a different sort, though.. it's almost like they enjoy spending as much money as possible on apple-distributed products. Just a few weeks back, my own sister-in-law actively refused to simply plug in a thumbdrive in her macbook to transfer an album of mine to their machine -- instead opting to spend 10 bux buying the album from iTunes without even bothering to give it a listen first.

RE: Duh...
By Fritzr on 12/6/2011 2:12:47 PM , Rating: 2
I keep a couple of extra e-readers loaded with my library. To loan a book, I give the friend one of the spare e-readers. There is definitely incentive to get the book returned :P

RE: Duh...
By tng on 12/6/2011 4:27:32 PM , Rating: 4
Good idea, but I am not willing to spend that much on 2 readers.

Normally I am not worried so much that someone will not give a book back. Also setting up a "library" with all the books I have read would be difficult and not useful to me, mainly because there are very few fiction books that I read that I will re-read. I do keep plenty of reference stuff around though.

I may be old fashioned here, but I find thumbing through a real book (especially a hardcover) somehow satisfying.

RE: Duh...
By nocturne_81 on 12/6/2011 4:44:54 PM , Rating: 2
Amen... I do the majority of my reading (news, articles, work, etc) on a screen as it is.. By the time the day is done, my eyes already have taken enough abuse -- the last thing I want to do is stare at another screen while I'm trying to relax and read a book.

The simple e-Ink screens on Kindles and comparable devices are indeed a nice compromise, though IMO the contrast is still just too low. Nothing beats an actual book.. I can get whatever one I want for free from the public library, or purchase it from a store if I can't wait, then pass it on to a friend.

RE: Duh...
By JediJeb on 12/6/2011 6:00:05 PM , Rating: 3
I happen to still like books better myself. Two years ago we had an ice storm that knocked out the electricity at my house for 12 days. I read a lot of books then that I had been putting off. Maybe a Kindle would have lasted that long without a recharge, but I doubt very much an iAnything would have had that much battery life in it.

It was rather cool spending two weeks reading books by kerosene lamps at night in utter silence, though the cold showers I really don't miss.

RE: Duh...
By lightfoot on 12/6/2011 6:45:46 PM , Rating: 2
...though the cold showers I really don't miss.

Electric hot water heater? I went for 22 hours without power a month back (no where near as long, I admit) but during that period I noticed that I still had hot water - my natural gas water heater did not require power.

That moment of discovery was pure magic.

To this day I still think that my hot water heater is magic.

RE: Duh...
By PrinceGaz on 12/7/2011 2:47:05 PM , Rating: 2
If you are without mains power for an extended period, there are plenty of options to keep your iDevice going for pretty much as long as you like.

The easiest which anyone can use is a AA cell powered USB charger, where you stick four NiMH cells in which provides enough energy for a complete charge of an iPhone with a good bit to spare. Any freak like me who loves their gadgets should have at least a dozen of those hybrid AA cells on hand for whenever they're needed, along with a box of a couple of dozen or so alkalines to power things like remotes or wall-clocks which run for years, so the AA cell stockpile should keep your iDevice going for weeks. An app like Stanza takes hardly any power itself, you're basically just powering the screen, and when you turn the brightness down to a natural reading level, the screen takes very little power.

If you own a car, then it provides an even easier recharge option (presumably you'd already have bought a car-charger for your iDevice).

Having said that, a dedicated eReader is better if all you want to do is read books, but an iDevice (or Android, or whatever) can do almost as good a job if used properly, though I find I never actually read a book on mine and instead play some strategy wargame instead, which is probably the major advantage of an eReader-- you aren't tempted by a load of apps offering various forms of entertainment.

RE: Duh...
By NellyFromMA on 12/6/11, Rating: 0
RE: Duh...
By Paj on 12/7/2011 7:04:35 AM , Rating: 1
If the US can't keep the reins on its own companies, then someones gotta do it

RE: Duh...
By NellyFromMA on 12/7/2011 1:05:04 PM , Rating: 1
Truth downrate. Meh -_-

RE: Duh...
By TakinYourPoints on 12/6/2011 4:43:23 PM , Rating: 1
I can read my Kindle books on an iPad. The range of content I have access to on my Kindle is far narrower. I'm actually surprised the Kindle hasn't caught more flak for this. I've owned Kindles since the first generation and I absolutely love them, my favorite tablet style devices by a longshot. I also don't deny that it is by far the most restricted device I own.

Then again, all of these self-contained devices are restricted (Nintendo DS, PSP, e-readers, tablets, etc etc). We'll see what happens. Like you said, people gladly buy into specific ecosystems accepting the restrictions. What makes them acceptable is their ease of use and the level of customer service you get from companies like Amazon and Apple. Hell, I buy nearly all my games on Steam and that's one more closed ecosystem, and it's on my PC...

RE: Duh...
By JediJeb on 12/6/2011 6:05:18 PM , Rating: 2
For older books that are out of copyright I think you can even get Kindle versions from The Gutenberg Project. I was able to find a book I really enjoyed as a kid on there that I couldn't find anywhere else, "Rip Foster, Ride the Gray Planet" a great scifi short novel from the 50's-60's era. Going back to see if I can find any of the old Doc Savage books there and read the ones I didn't read when I was in school.

RE: Duh...
By TakinYourPoints on 12/6/2011 10:24:27 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, there are some free book exceptions, Gutenberg, etc. That said, Kindle supports the fewest file types and is the most restrictive out of the other readers out there. Still my favorite though, there's something to be said for good execution and service making up for limitations that seem bad on paper.

By Church of Dirac on 12/6/2011 1:15:59 PM , Rating: 2
I'm surprised Apple isn't investigated more for anticompetitive practices. Their censorship of the App Store and ridiculous litigation against competitors should be enough to get shut down.

RE: Antitrust
By Tony Swash on 12/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: Antitrust
By borismkv on 12/6/2011 5:53:42 PM , Rating: 2
I just gotta know how much you were pissing and moaning about Microsoft's "relentless success" during the 90s and early 2000s

RE: Antitrust
By lightfoot on 12/6/2011 6:55:33 PM , Rating: 2
The most common complaint I hear about Microsoft products is "why isn't component X integrated into the OS like it is on IOS?" They don't realize that Microsoft integrated a lot of functionality into their OS, and then got sued because of it.

Apple today does the same things Microsoft did then - and it is still anti-competitive. The only difference is that Microsoft was a monopoly and it was therefore illegal. Apple hasn't been a monopoly - yet. The day that they do, they will be hit by all the same rules and regulations.

No bundling Safari, iTunes, GarageBand, your fancy hardware or anything else with your OS. Then we can see how much people gush about the Apple OS if it has to compete on an even playing field. Thankfully that day will NEVER come.

RE: Antitrust
By Tony Swash on 12/6/11, Rating: -1
RE: Antitrust
By DeluxeTea on 12/6/2011 10:42:04 PM , Rating: 2
So Apple can do no wrong, and everyone else is evil and stupid?

Yep, we got a w(h)iner here guys.

RE: Antitrust
By MechanicalTechie on 12/7/2011 12:18:27 AM , Rating: 2
So basically you defend Apple because you don’t like MS... dude your such a hypercritic... MS does blows the fat one I will agree to that.. but Apple is gobbling mouthfuls of load

Apple restricts is uses more than any other system, its killing the music industry, openly copies other people and then sues for ridiculous reasons and makes you pay a premium??? WTF!!!

Yes Apple sooooooooooooooo pretty and cool... but i dont wear a dress so this means nothing to me.

Please don't stop defending Apple... because its awesome to see how brainwashed you are!!!

RE: Antitrust
By Tony Swash on 12/7/11, Rating: 0
RE: Antitrust
By MechanicalTechie on 12/7/2011 6:05:34 PM , Rating: 1
Your such an iTool... you simply just don't get it. Do you..

'I find they are usually best of class in terms of design, functionality and usability'... haha and you call me the pussy? I bet you would by a car because of the colour.. or because it's cool... and are you serioulsy suggesting Apple has the best hardware?? please, please explain that to me!!

So you think Apple having to approve everything and having the final say on how you can to use something that you BOUGHT is not restrictive?

And don't give me the crap... "but its to ensure its functioning at its best... or doesn’t negatively affect the end user" give me a break if i buy it i want to total control of it.. not rent the damn thing. Explain why people had to jail break it then ?!?!

Why don't you ask the Top record labels what they think about Apple taking a large portion of their income? Does Apple reinvest back into the music industry to find more talent... well...!!!!

Explain how its helping journalism?

Its just soooooo pathetic that your totally devoted to a company... thats all it is!! You can bitch about iPhobes.. but look in the mirror dude... your a disgrace... a marketers dream and a total clone!!

And just for the record i don't own an Android!

RE: Antitrust
By borismkv on 12/8/2011 1:48:14 PM , Rating: 2
HA! Apple Best in class. That's a new one. Apple has completely abandoned the business environment. OS X Server is a pile of garbage. It's useless and over-priced. Much like the majority of Apple's products.

As for MS vs. Apple in the 90s, Apple's interface was just as ugly, if not uglier. The only thing that differentiated them was the case. Their computers were slow, they crashed just as much or more than Windows did, and they weren't compatible with anything.

Should be a slam dunk
By lightfoot on 12/6/2011 1:14:20 PM , Rating: 2
Apple's "most favored nation" clause alone should make this case an anti-trust slam dunk.

Apple requires that the price that is provided to their customers is no higher than prices else where. Apple also insists on taking 30% of the cut. Therefore Apple only pays 70% to the content provider of what any competitor would have to pay to get the same content.

It is clearly anti-competitive.

RE: Should be a slam dunk
By Fritzr on 12/6/2011 2:11:19 PM , Rating: 2
Not quite. The distributor takes a payment for each item sold. Apple sets this payment at 30% of gross for apps. Possibly the same for ebooks and emusic, but that is not writ in stone.

Amazon in addition to selling almost exclusively a proprietary format that is only compatible with Amazon devices or software also takes a cut of the selling price for all items listed on the Amazon website. This is a mark-up for items that Amazon resells in it's role as a retailer and a commission (percentage, fixed fee or both) for third party sellers when the purchase is made from the Amazon website.

Any ebook store that is not directly controlled by the publisher (in a few cases it is the author publishing the e-edition) is being paid a fee that is taken out of the price the customer pays before the remainder is passed on to the publisher

These fees can vary widely. For a real world example, a tool company I worked for years ago gave discounts to their resellers according to the volume they expected to move. the scale started at 10% off list and went up to 30% off list for distributors who where passing the parts on as a middleman. Then a large company with a national reputation contracted them as a private label supplier. The volume was equal to about half of their production at the time of this offer. For a customer that would be buying a third of their total production, they agreed to 60% off list.

The amount paid to the publisher varies widely according to the reseller agreement. Whenever possible I buy from the author/publisher directly. As a bonus, I buy books for prices ranging from $3 to $7 ... Amazon is more expensive and does not carry many of the ebooks that I buy. I don't know about the Apple ebook store. I use an iPod as a pocket book reader, but I have never looked at the Apple ebooks all come from non-Apple stores.

RE: Should be a slam dunk
By lightfoot on 12/6/2011 2:49:51 PM , Rating: 3
Do you even know what a "most favored nation" clause is?

It is a contract mechinism that prevents free market negotiations with competiting vendors. Both Amazon and Apple are using them against the publishers. If you cannot manage to negotiate a similar deal, then you simply can't compete in the market. This directly leads to price fixing and collusion.

Rip off
By BugblatterIII on 12/6/2011 2:49:22 PM , Rating: 3
Periodically I check the prices of e-books to see if they've come down to a reasonable level. I still see the electronic version costing more than the hardback for a new release.

I won't be buying e-books until the publishers get a handle on reality.

RE: Rip off
By Gio6518 on 12/6/2011 3:37:04 PM , Rating: 3
I won't be buying e-books until the publishers get a handle on reality.

Agreed, all digital media pricing has to come down, there overhead has been greatly reduced (CD, DVD manufacturing and printing).

RE: Rip off
By Tony Swash on 12/6/2011 3:47:02 PM , Rating: 1
The main problem I have with e-books is their god awful typography. I used to be in the design business and I often find myself rejecting printed books because I just can't face reading the awful typesetting, e-books are mostly really badly typeset.

I love the bookshops in the US and often come back with a suitcase full of books because US books are so well produced and well made. The bindings are first class, US paperbacks are a just that bit bigger than European paperbacks but above all the paper quality and typesetting is mostly really good. What happens so many times with European books is that the publishers try to save money by using lower quality paper, hence you get show through of the text from the other side, and they reduce the type size and the leading so as to squeeze more text on the page and thus save on the number of pages. It often ruins the reading experience. Not enough leading is killer.

Rant over :)

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