The suit may have permanently changed the e-book market, and perhaps marred a trusted brand
Several news sources and blogs have at various times applied the term "evil empire" to Apple, blasting some of its policies on distributing music and news content. Today they got more fodder, when the
Previously, retailers had set their own e-book prices. To gain an advantage, Apple's e-book rival Amazon had discounted some popular books to
No longer. While it remains to be seen what will come of the case against Apple and the other two publishers, Macmillan and Penguin, the settlement sets strict limits on the sort of price agreements that the
But the market has shifted, and e-book price expectations are now well over
"It's hard to put Humpty Dumpty together again," he says. "Will [the old prices] come back? What will Amazon do? I don't know."
In addition, after two years, the publishers could individually come back to Apple -- or Amazon, if they so chose -- and pursue the same types of agreements, says First. That's because publishers' real transgression arose not from the their agreements with Apple but with the alleged mass agreement. Had the publishers individually made such deals with Apple, it would not have been unlawful, he says.
One ramifications of this could be a blemish on the respected Apple brand.
"They seem to have lots of e-mails, and statements from Apple, which presumably they call the ringleader in this, coordinating this cartel," says First.
If consumers perceive Apple not only to be fixing high prices but also intransigent in the face of the allegations, says
"Apple does hurt itself when it thumbs its nose at the courts, the American system, and that could hurt it." Apple's "brand personality," says Durgee, is that of "a maverick, but not outside the law."
However, there is in fact a case to be made for why Apple's pricing system is, in fact, better for consumers, says
"What Apple was trying to do was ensure that they had a very simple pricing policy on their books, and there's evidence out there that says that consumers like that," she says. Having to hunt for a bargain, for example, can be time-consuming. Knowing what price an Apple e-book is going to cost every time makes purchasing easier, if a bit more costly. Depending on what happens with the suit's remaining firms, consumers may perhaps get to keep some of that pricing simplicity...even if they don't get to keep a few extra dollars.
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