Random House was the only ‘Big Six’ publisher to escape being named in the ongoing eBook price-fixing lawsuit levied by the US Department of Justice. They implemented the same agency pricing model that inflated eBook prices and made their cost prohibitive to many readers, but I guess there was no solid evidence of ‘collusion’ that could be held against them.
Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins have all settled the suit (refusing to admit guilt along the way), and they have agreed to renegotiate contracts with eBook vendors. This means that more Kobo eBooks will be eligible for Kobo discount codes, and more students and educators will be able to have access to eBooks at reasonable rates. Oh, and everyone who overpaid for eBooks from these publishers in the past will be getting a reimbursement check. Payments will start to go out 30 days after the final settlement details are concluded. Customers will receive between $0.25 and $1.32 per eBook. This can amount to a nice sum of you buy a lot of eBooks.
Publishers shouldn’t fear the $69 million dollar payout though; I’m sure many of those readers will turn right around and spend it on more eBooks. I know I will.
I have noticed that eBook prices have already started to go down. Some of the eBooks I have been tracking that were priced at $12.99 or $14.99 a few months ago have dropped to an odd number like $10.67, but, for the most part, it has been a gradual change. Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader thinks that Amazon really can’t afford to slash eBooks prices anymore, so don’t expect anything extreme. The $9.99 price point might not be as important to the company as it was in the past, but according to their official statements, they are making efforts to get back there.
Random House isn’t bound to any of this, however. Remember, they supposedly weren’t involved in any price fixing, even though they continue to ‘fix’ their eBook prices at, what I would consider, unreasonably high rates.
Take for example, the above Vladimir Nabokov novels (see image). This incredibly talented writer died on July 2, 1977, but his eBooks are priced as if he were walking around collecting royalties today. His estate probably has something to do with this, but I seriously question the fairness of paying $11.99 or $14.99 for eBooks whose physical alternatives are priced a few dollars lower. The works of Nabokov are serious literature, so they merit a serious eBook price (I think this is Penguin’s eBook pricing philosophy).
With the winding down of the DOJ lawsuit, I am left to wonder if 1) Random House will lower their eBook prices along with their publishing brethren, and 2) if I pay for a $14.99 eBook today, and it gets reduced to $10.67 a week from now, will I be refunded the difference when the settlement checks get mailed out?
If anyone knows the answer to these questions, please do post a comment below. I know that publishers who have settled the lawsuit still have “this price was set by the publisher” notices posted below a few of their eBooks. If I buy a bunch of them today, I am worried that they will just drop in price a couple months down the road. It makes me wonder if this is really the best time to be buying eBooks, an act that already makes me nervous.