It's been just a short time since a U.S. federal court judge approvedÂ an antitrust settlement between some book publishers and the Justice Department and already the $9.99 e-book is back.
Popular author Michael Chabon's newly-released "Telegraph Avenue" is selling for $9.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble's BN.com and Apple's iBook.Â Compare that to the $12.99 to $14.99 range at which many e-books have been priced over the last few years.Â
So far, the new lower price applies only to HarperCollins titles. Simon & Schuster and Hachette Book Group have also settled the antitrust suit but have not yet reached new deals with online booksellers.
Penguin and Macmillan continue to fight the suit, as does Apple, a defendant in the case.
Apple and the booksellers still face a major civil antitrust suitÂ that claimsÂ AppleÂ conspired with the five major publishers to raise the price of e-books, dominate the market and force Amazon to stop selling at a discount. The conspiracy worked so well that e-books now cost as much or more than paperbacks, the class action claims.Â
Not everyone thinks the settlement is great news for consumers though. Writing in the Los Angeles Times today, columnist Michael HiltzikÂ argues that while those low prices look great today, they may be "designed to drive off all of Amazon's e-book competition - and kill off the last remaining brick-and-mortar bookstores too - so it can set its own prices as it wishes down the line."
"In essence, the government walked blithely past the increasing threat of an Amazon monopoly and went after the stakeholders who were trying to keep it from taking root," Hiltzik suggested.
However they may feel privately, publishers are trying to put a bright face on the matter. Â
"HarperCollins has reached agreements with our e-retailers that are consistent with the final judgment," HarperCollins spokeswoman Erin Crum said in a statement. "Dynamic pricing and experimentation will continue to be a priority for us as we move forward."