Apple attorneys are set to meet on Monday with U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, the latest chapter in a strange and nonsensical legal battle.
The case in question involves another of America’s biggest companies, Amazon, and its contention that Apple has been colluding to keep e-book prices artificially high. Antitrust lawsuits are never friendly, but the animosity between some key players in this battle of tech giants is extraordinary — and for good reason.
You may remember that Amazon helped persuade the U.S. Department of Justice to sue Apple in April 2012, claiming that Apple conspired with five of the nation’s largest publishers to fix the price of e-books at a level different than what Amazon had set. Amazon, the web’s biggest retailer, had been selling published books at a money-losing rate of $9.99. Why? To get us to buy its Kindle e-book reader, and to dominate the e-book market. Amazon’s strategy worked. According to court documents, the firm soon controlled 90 percent of the e-book market.
This meant that publishers — who had invested in the writing, production, promotion and distribution of these books — couldn’t sell their wares at the recommended retail price of $14.99. Nor could brick-and-mortar stores match Amazon’s money-losing discounts. Amazon’s product-dumping and predatory pricing helped bankrupt many small-town bookstores. Yet, neither publishers nor independent booksellers sued Amazon, even though they might have had a good case (as we’ll soon see).