March 26, 2014

The antitrust payouts have begun: Amazon users get ebook refunds



Amazon was the big winner of the DoJ’s antitrust suit in July and they’re still the big winner today.

Yesterday, Amazon‘s winning streak continued. As part of an antitrust settlement, Amazon customers who bought books from Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin were given a refund of $3.17 per New York Times-bestseller and $0.73 per non-bestseller purchased between April 2010 and May 2012. (Customers in Minnesota received a slightly larger refund, so I’m sure Garrison Keillor loaded up his Kindle with books about jam, or whatever.) Judging from Twitter, it looks like a number of customers used the occasion to go on miniature shopping sprees and, as GigOm‘s Jeff Roberts noted, “Amazon didn’t have to pay a cent.”

Amazon, the undefeated heavyweight champion of late capitalism, will likely notch another victory in the near future, when Apple is forced to pony up its own, much more massive settlement. (This, of course, depends on its appeal of U.S. v. Apple, which is likely to fail.)

As Amazon noted in an email, all affected customers have to do is sit back and start buying ebooks:

“You don’t have to do anything to claim your credit, we have already added your credit to your Amazon account. We will automatically apply your available credit to your next purchase of a Kindle book or print book sold by, regardless of publisher. The credit applied to your purchase will appear in your order summary.”

The credit only applies to books, so you’ll have to hold off on ordering that Tuscan Milk until payday.

But Amazon’s victory isn’t limited to the credits spent by customers yesterday; it’s also expecting a chunk of change from the publishers as well, in addition to the leverage it gained from the lawsuits. As Roberts wrote, “Today, as a result of lawsuits brought by the Justice Department and state governments, Amazon is in an even stronger position with the publishers; it will also get a healthy cut of the $160 million or so that the publishers agreed to pay under a settlement.”

You can read more of our coverage of the U.S. v. Apple and the DoJ’s antitrust lawsuit against the five publishers listed above here


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