Apple, publishers cut e-book deal with EU regulators -- report

Apple avoids an antitrust investigation in Europe by agreeing to a deal that enables Amazon to lower prices. Is Apple looking for a similar deal in the United States?

Greg Sandoval/CNET

Apple has reportedly negotiated a deal with European regulators that will help the company avoid litigation for potential antitrust violations while also enabling Amazon to offer lower prices than offered at Apple's iBookstore.

Reuters reports that EU regulators are preparing to accept the offer presented by Apple and four top book publishers: News Corp unit HarperCollins, Lagardere SCA's Hachette Livre, Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, the owner of German company Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster, owned by CBS, parent company of CNET.

Apple's antitrust issues involving e-books began in the United States last spring. The U.S. government accused Apple and five book publishers of conspiring to fix prices and forcing Amazon to raise prices.

This is good news for Amazon and consumers. Both were thrown under the bus in the backroom deal Apple originally made with the book publishers to raise prices so Amazon wouldn't hold a price advantage over iBooks, according to comments made by Steve Jobs.

An Apple representative was not immediately available for comment.

In the United States, three of the publishers, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Hachette settled. Apple, Macmillan and Pearson Plc's Penguin group denied wrongdoing and decided to fight in out in court. A trial is scheduled for early next year.

In Europe, it appears that Penguin stands alone in its unwillingness to cut a deal, according to the Reuters report. The big question now is whether Apple and the accused publishers are seeking a similar settlement in the United States.

More to come

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