The Justice Department has been butting heads with Apple and major book publishers like John Wiley & Sons (NYSE:JW-A), Scholastic (NASDASQ:SCHL), and McGraw-Hill (NYSE:MHP) over allegations that Apple had been preventing publishers selling books via Amazon’s Kindle store (and others) from offering their e-books at prices lower than those posted for the titles on the Apple iTunes Store. That means prices for e-books have been artificially inflated.
The e-book version of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, for example, has been priced higher than the paper edition.
Any deal with the Justice Department likely will mean publishers, not retailers such as Amazon or Apple, have the right to set prices. That would allow for discounts and other tactics to entice consumers, bringing down the cost of digital content.
The news came in a Reuters report today quoting unnamed sources.
Scholastic is having a great run right now with its successful Hunger Games books, and dropping hardware prices for tablets and e-readers amid tough competition could mean the timing is perfect for publishers to be armed with the ability to discount.
Whether enough Americans will keep the e-book market viable by turning off their flatscreens or stop surfing the Web long enough to read a 300-page novel, however, remains to be seen.