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Poll: The Justice Department's e-books lawsuit against Apple

April 13, 2012|By Jon Healey
  • A digital book is displayed on an Apple iPad.
A digital book is displayed on an Apple iPad. (Scott Eells / Bloomberg )

The Justice Department laid out its price-fixing case Wednesday against Apple and five major publishers, three of whom settled without admitting any wrongdoing. On Friday it was Apple's turn to speak. As ever,  the company was terse. Here's the entire statement released by spokesman Tom Neumayr:

The DOJ's accusation of collusion against Apple is simply not true. The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry. Since then customers have benefited from eBooks that are more interactive and engaging. Just as we've allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore.

Simple, elegant and easy to understand, much like the company's products. As a reporter, I wish the company had addressed the DOJ's hub-and-spoke theory, which held that the publishers initiated the idea of raising e-book prices through an agency sales model, then put the alleged conspiracy into effect with Apple's help. But it looks like the company will be no more voluble about controversial matters under the leadership of Tim Cook than it was under the late Steve Jobs.

Apple's defenders haven't been shy about criticizing the DOJ, which they say misunderstood what's happening in the e-book market. By their reckoning, the arrival of the iPad and the publishers' shift to the agency model -- in which they set the retail price and the seller takes a commission -- weakened Amazon's stranglehold on the market for e-books and e-book readers, enabling new online book outlets to compete and giving consumers more choices among devices and content suppliers.

Of course, there are folks on the other side too. One of them is Bert Foer, president of the American Antitrust Institute. Said Foer:

The practical result of a failure to prosecute this case would be to acquiesce in this scheme to increase the price of e-books. Even though the agency model sought by Apple and the publishers may not in itself be illegal or unethical, to allow manufacturers to collude in the manner alleged would be to undermine the consumer's best protection against the evils of monopolies and cartels.

But what do you think about the whole affair? Take our insanely great unscientific poll, leave a comment or do both!

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