The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into possible collusion amongst book publishers that it says might have worked with Apple to fix prices on eBooks, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal and the L.A. Times.
The news comes just days after the European Commission announced it would move forward with an investigation into suspected price-fixing of eBooks among a handful publishers in conjunction with Apple.
The European Commission has fingered Hachette Livre (Lagardère Publishing, France), Harper Collins (News Corp., USA), Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp., USA), Penguin (Pearson Group, United Kingdom) and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck (owner of inter alia Macmillan, Germany) in its investigation.
According to statements made at a congressional hearing by Sharis Pozen, the Justice Department’s acting antitrust chief, the department is moving forward with the investigation with the help of the European Commission.
Both the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have been investigating the possible price fixing of electronic books since last year.
The investigation is aimed at uncovering Apple’s role in the current state of the eBook market. When Amazon first launched its Kindle eReader, it did so in conjunction with heavily discounted eBooks, pricing many popular bestsellers at $9.99 and subsidizing the loss on the titles.
Later Apple launched the iPad in April of 2010. The company went directly to the publishers, telling them that they could price their books as they saw fit and Apple would take a 30 percent cut of anything sold through iTunes. Amazon eventually had to bend to the new model, effectively raising the price of eBooks across the board.