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Apple offers up e-book discount to avoid antitrust fines, report says

The tech giant and four major publishers offer a deal to let Apple's e-book competitors sell at a discount for two years in Europe, Reuters reports.


Apple has come up with a deal that may get the company out of an European antitrust investigation and avoid possible fines by letting its competitors sell e-books at a discount, Reuters reported today.

The agreement, proposed by Apple and four major publishers, would let e-book retailers like Amazon sell books at a lower price for two years, an unnamed source told Reuters.

In fear of Apple squashing competition in Europe, the European Union's commission overseeing antitrust violations began investigating Apple's e-book prices in December.

The four publishers -- Simon & Schuster (which is owned by CBS, the same company that publishes CNET), News Corp. unit HarperCollins Publishers, French group Lagardere SCA's Hachette Livre, and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck (which owns Macmillan in Germany) -- had a deal with Apple that let the Cupertino, Calif., company sell e-books in iTunes, but stopped other retailers from selling the book at a lower price.

The commission announced in April that five publishers had offered deals, also in an attempt to stop the investigation, but no details were released. Reuters' source said the commission is now looking for input from the industry to see if the offered concessions are sufficient.

Apple's e-book woes are far reaching. In the United States, Justice Department officials have pursued a lawsuit against Apple and publishers for allegedly conspiring to increase prices.