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April 12, 2021

If e-books were cheaper, would you buy more of them?

Yesterday, the U.S. Justice Department filed a civil antitrust action against major book publishers and Apple, accusing the companies of colluding to raise the prices of e-books.

Two companies have decided to fight the charges although three other publishers have already caved, agreeing to a settlement designed to lower prices for consumers.

Will this mean that e-books will get cheaper? I think so, but there are those who argue that prices will ultimately rise because of this ill-fated suit, with Amazon being the big winner.

Amazon is setting a price that's too low for other competitors to match in a price war, argues best selling author Scott Turow in a recent rant. By chastising its competitors, there will eventually be no competition at all, leaving Amazon able to set whatever prices it wants.

Amazon is using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open, he maintains. So why is the U.S. government giving them a helping hand?

Right now, the status quo "looks like a more robust and competitive market, as opposed to the world we will be left with if the Justice Department paves the way for Amazon to return to its predatory practices," Turow says.

But, of course, it's not that simple. For an excellent explanation of just how e-books are priced and why most publishers still love paper, have a look here.

Are you a regular e-book user? Is it pricing or convenience that drives your behaviour? Would you buy more often if prices dropped by a buck or two?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...