July 26, 2013

Publishers have paid $166 million in price-fixing case; Apple will probably pay way, way more than that



According to a document released on Tuesday, the five publishers involved in the DOJ’s recent ebook price-fixing case paid $166,158,426 to settle the state and consumer charges brought against them. Over at Publishers Weekly, Andrew Albanese breaks down that figure:

Notably, the letter includes the total damage awards calculated by the states and lists the amount publishers agreed to pay as a percentage of those damages. In that regard, the deals look pretty good for the initial three settling publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster). Hachette was calculated to be on the hook for a total of $62,280,000, but has paid $32,686,165, roughly 52% of what it was liable for. HarperCollins paid $20,168,710, about 65% of $31,140,000 it was assessed for. And Simon & Schuster was on the hook for $42,920,000, and paid $18,303,551 or 42% of assessed damages.

Penguin and Macmillan, meanwhile, appear to have paid a premium for being the last two publishers to settle claims. Penguin, which struck a deal just days before Apple’s June trial, agreed to pay $75 million to settle calculated damages of $62,128,000, or 121% of its assessed liability. Macmillan, which settled in March, paid $20 million to settle damage claims of $18,515,000—or, 108% of their liability.

The document was provided to Judge Denise Cote, who oversaw the trial, by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Laura Hazard Owen reported for PaidContent yesterday that a number of experts expect Apple will “likely face a liability payment of harm to consumers times three, minus the $166 million already paid out by publishers,” which means that the tech giant will be on the hook for nearly half a billion dollars. That is a ton (I believe the proper term is “shit-ton”) of money, but this is Apple we’re talking about and they have a ridiculous amount of money. As PaidContent‘s Jeff Roberts wrote earlier this month, “The dollar amount, however, is unlikely to faze Apple, which is rich enough to buy the entire publishing industry if it chose.”

Of course, Apple is appealing the decision, so they could still escape the expected half-billion dollar fine.



Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.