NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge cited the confident voice of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs on Tuesday as she refused to toss out lawsuits alleging the company and various publishers conspired to drive up the price of electronic books.
U.S. District Judge Denise Cote noted in her written ruling that Jobs had made statements that agreements between the publishers and Apple Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif., would cause consumers to "pay a little more" and that prices would "be the same" at Apple and Amazon.com.
In a lawsuit this year, the U.S. government joined 15 states in suing Apple and publishers, saying they conspired in the fall of 2009 to force e-book prices several dollars above the $9.99 price charged by Amazon.com on its popular Kindle device. According to the lawsuit, the publishers were concerned that Amazon's e-book price was too far below the price of hardcover books and Apple was concerned because it was preparing to launch the iPad. By 2010, Amazon was responsible for 90 percent of e-book sales in the United States, the judge noted.
Amazon's $9.99 price for best-sellers was such a deep discount from list prices of $20 and more that it was widely believed Amazon was selling the e-books at a loss to attract more customers and force competitors to lower their prices.
The judge rejected the argument that Apple and the publishers were merely improving the efficiencies of distribution, saying: "It has everything to do with coordinating a horizontal agreement among publishers to raise prices, and eliminating horizontal price competition among Apple's competitors at the retail level."
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