The DOJ Files Antitrust Lawsuit, 3 Major Publishers Settle: Your Weekly Libraries and E-Content News Summar

April 13, 2012
Posted in: News

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it has filed an antitrust suit against five major publishers and Apple. Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have agreed to a proposed settlement which is awaiting court approval. Penguin Group, Macmillan and Apple have not agreed to a settlement. Penguin Group and Macmillan have both released statements denying any wrongdoing.

The settlement with Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster creates several new restrictions on e-book publishers. The full text of the settlement agreement can be found at TeleRead, while highlights and analysis of the settlement can be found at Wired. Included in the settlement: book retailers are allowed to discount e-books at their discretion for two years; publishers must eliminate any contract with books retailers that prohibits price competition; and a requirement to notify the DOJ of joint ventures with any other publishers related to e-books. This final stipulation could have consequences for libraries and publishers working toward an agreement regarding access to e-books. In the recent ALA State of America’s Libraries report, Hachette CEO David Young is quoted as saying, “Publishers can’t meet to discuss standards because of antitrust concerns. This has had a chilling effect on reaching consensus.”

As the New York Times points out, one possible result of the lawsuit is that Amazon may now be the one setting e-book prices. Regardless of the outcomes, this case will change the environment within which libraries are working on securing access to e-books.

In addition to the DOJ lawsuit, Macmillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Apple also face lawsuits brought by several states. According to a statement released by the state of Connecticut, the following states are joining in leveling lawsuits similar to the DOJ: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia, plus the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Settlements with Hachette Group and HarperCollins have already been reached.

For a summary of the basics of the suit, the settlement, and the state lawsuits, check out The Digital Shift’s coverage.

ALA president-elect Maureen Sullivan has extended an invitation to authors groups in an effort to include content producers in the conversation about access to electronic content. The ALA is also hoping to understand what issues authors face in an evolving publishing environment. The meetings are expected to take place by mid-May.

In its annual State of America’s Libraries report, the ALA devotes a portion of it to e-books and their role in libraries. It serves as a good review of the issues libraries face related to obtaining and providing access to e-books for their communities.

Anthony Molaro, author of The Information Activist Librarian blog, argued recently that library access to e-books is an issue of human rights, equality and social justice. Molaro wonders what role exclusive e-book publishing will have on access to information.

Be sure to check out links to lots of other stories like these that we post on our Twitter feed and Facebook page throughout the week.

Contributing Editor Lindsay Barber writes our weekly e-content news posts along with contributions from the Library Renewal Editorial Team (incl. Colin Wilkins, Matt Weaver and Michael Porter).

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