Penguin and Macmillan have hit back at US government claims that they colluded to fix the price of e-books in court papers filed on Tuesday (29th May), with Penguin accusing Amazon of “predatory” and “monopolist” behaviour which could ultimately harm the publishing industry.
The two US publishers are the subject of a lawsuit by the US Department of Justice which accuses them, along with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Hachette, of violating antitrust laws by conspiring with Apple to fix the price of e-books in the agency pricing model.
S&S, Hachette and HarperCollins agreed to settle with the government last month but Macmillan and Penguin refused to, filing defence papers in United States District Court in New York on Tuesday.
In its papers, Penguin accused Amazon of being “predatory” and a “monopolist”, saying the online retailer's anti-competitive behaviour was poised to damage the bookselling industry. Penguin added the company was “concerned that Amazon’s below-cost pricing strategy for certain new release titles would be detrimental to the long term health of the book industry".
Penguin also stated that most of the conversations between publishers cited as evidence of collusion in e-book price-fixing were actually discussions about “Project Z’ – now revealed as aNobii – and “Project Muse”, which is Bookish. “These joint ventures were and are legitimate competitor-collaborations among Penguin and other publishers – including Random House and Harper Collins with respect to aNobii, and Hachette and Simon & Schuster with respect to Bookish—and were conceived as a way for publishers to replicate online the ‘book finding’ function that brick and mortar stores historically performed,” Penguin said.
Macmillan’s response said: “[In the absence of] any direct evidence of conspiracy, the government’s complaint is necessarily based entirely on the little circumstantial evidence it was able to locate during its extensive investigation, on which it piles innuendo on top of innuendo, stretches facts and implies actions that did not occur and Macmillan denies unequivocally.”
Last week, Apple filed its own response to the lawsuit, saying the government was siding with “monopoly, rather than competition".