back to article Europe confirms raids on ebook publishers

The European Commission has confirmed it raided several companies involved in ebook publishing. The regulators said it carried out "unannounced inspections" at ebook publishing companies in several member states because it has reason to believe they may have "violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and other …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    "Many observers expected the arrival in Europe of Amazon's Kindle, and therefore increasing electronic sales, to result in falling prices for ebooks."

    Are these "observers" idiots? It's a Amazon locked in ecosystem, just like iTunes.

    That is why you would have to be a total retard to buy a Kindle, it's heavily subsided hardware designed to make Amazon ALOT of money in the long-run from overpriced ebooks.

    If you want competition from multiple retailers then you buy a EPUB reader like the Sony.

    1. Andy ORourke

      I'm a retard

      Well, I'm beginning to think so, I got a kindle with the "free" 3g for £149.99 and got a couple of ebooks for quite good prices at the beginning (like a drug addict maybe?)

      Just looking today on Amazon for some Holiday reading material and I looked at Clarksons latest rambles:

      Kindle Edition - £12.98

      Hardcover - £9.99

      Paperback - £5.99

      Used - £2.80

      Kindle edition TWICE as much as a paperback, £3.00 more than the hardback, and £10.00 more than a used one!

      So yes, I do feel like a complete twat now for tying myself in to the Kindle!

      Having said that it is a nice eBook reader, good wifi & 3g connectivity as well as it's ability to read web pages (with the obvious limitations)

      1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

        I agree in part

        Seeing the cost of an ebook being more than the price of the paperback riles me. I'm just glad I have Calibre to convert ebooks from other formats so I can shop around, but even then prices are way too high.

        But let's not jump straight onto Amazon as the source of the high prices. If the publishers are charging that much, they can't be expected to sell them at a loss.

        The other thing that pisses me off is VAT on ebooks.

        I half wish my other half never bought me my Kindle... But then again it's a lovely bit of kit, and has transformed my oppinions of ebook readers. All they need to do is sort the pricing (the ex VAT price should be no more than the cost of the cheapest edition new. So while it's only in hardback, use the hardback price. Once it's in paperback, drop to paperback price. Simples.)

      2. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        @Andy ORourke - that's what this news is about

        It's not about Kindle. It's about publishing houses setting prices on ebooks, thus avoiding competition laws which successfully pushed down the prices of all paper editions of the book you were interested in. Believe me, Kindle has nothing do with it. I happened to buy Kindle and (more than) few books before publishing houses hardened their pricing policy and am very happy that law agencies are starting to see the problem here.

        As for "lock in", needless to say quite recently I bought some books from the bookshop actually competing with Amazon (which just doesn't happen to promote its own reader) i.e. O'Reilly, the ebook was available in mobi format and I'm happily reading it on my Kindle. There is no "Kindle walled garden" as there is one for everything Apple does. It's just bookshops unwilling to sell books in format which can be read on competitors device. The difference is you can actually read non-DRM books on Kindle, no (or only few) problems here.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Bornek Kozicki

          "There is no "Kindle walled garden" as there is one for everything Apple does"

          Which explains why all but two of the couple hundred plus books I have on my iThingie have come from anywhere but Apple's ibookstore (Fictionwise, BooksOnBoard, Kobo, Smiths, Waterstones, Smashwords and others). OK, some of them had to be format shifted to epub. I can also get them onto the iPad without using iTunes if I so desire (at the moment I am using iTunes & Calibre, about a month ago I was just using Calibre)

          I'm also glad the pricing is being looked into, and hope they start on geographic restrictions next (and resolve both issues in favour of the consumer, not the publishers)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Agency pricing

        Then you probably made the original buys before Amazon was forced to adopt agency pricing by the publishers. Many Ebook prices went up several pounds overnight when that happened.

    2. Nigel Whitfield.

      ePub is all very well ...

      But despite the theoretical competition, even prices there have gone up. Waterstones - the retailer that Sony has tended to push their customers to - didn't even attempt to compete when Kindle appeared in the UK; some of their prices actually went up.

      And that was before the introduction of Agency Pricing which pushed up prices of some books by a few pounds.

    3. James Hughes 1

      Must be a retard then

      As have a Kindle.

      Never paid for a book on it though, and haven't stopped using it since I bought it. I'm pretty impressed with it to be honest.

      Am I still a retard? I bought a subsidised piece of hardware that does exactly what I want, and hasn't cost me a penny to use (well, maybe a few pence in charging).

      Locked in Ecosystem? You can read whatever you like on it - doesn't have to come from Amazon. In what way is that locked in? Please explain. Or don't you know, and are only regurgitating what you read on slashdot?

    4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      I see your Fail and raise you an Ignoramus.

      Well, disregard my academic record and well paid job, I must be a dunce for having a Kindle, despite the fact that it doesn't 'lock you into' Amazon's ecosystem, since it will quite happily reproduce e-books bought in ohter formats and display PDFs and MS Word documents emailed to it for free.

      But of course, not being a Kindle owner, this perfectly qualifies you to criticise something you obviously know very little about, right?

      1. Tom 35 Silver badge

        emailed to it for free

        If you have to email it would that not be a gateway that Amazon may deside to filter/toll/block at their whim at some future date?

        If you can't just plug it into a USB port and copy files to it then you are just hoping that they will keep playing nice.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          @Tom 35

          You can plug it in via USB, see it as an external drive and transfer files directly. The email thing is a convenience.

    5. Joe 35

      Fail on your fail

      You said "it's heavily subsided hardware designed to make Amazon A LOT of money in the long-run from overpriced ebooks."

      No, " it's heavily subsided hardware designed to make Amazon A LOT of money in the long-run from CHEAP ebooks."

      Amazon at one stage actually refused to sell these overpriced books , which the publishers wont allow them to discount as a condition of sale. Check out the pricing differences between books where "the publisher has set the price" and ones where this isnt so. Its marked.

      The publishers havent learned the lesson of the music industry. Eventually the pirates will teach them and hopefully quicker than the EU which will likely come up with a recommendation in about 2025.

  2. There's a bee in my bot net

    Copyright wars...

    We will all look back and laugh at the silly things that corporations got up to during the copyright wars of the 21st century whilst all enjoying our creative commons, open file format, non drm'ed ebooks of the future...

  3. Steve Oliver 1


    You don't HAVE to buy ebooks from Amazon in order to read them on the Kindle. In fact, you don't have to BUY ebooks at all; there are plenty of (legit) free books available.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Yes, but

      There are of course plenty of free eBooks available - but that's only a helpful argument if they're the sort of books that someone wants to read.

      Resources like Project Gutenberg, or the free books available from Kobo, Baen and many other sources do mean that yes, you can find plenty of stuff to read without spending money.

      But if someone wants to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or the latest Dan Brown, or any of a huge number of other things, pointing out that they can get anything by Dickens from Gutenberg, or some free SciFi from Baen doesn't solve their problem, does it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Girl with the Dragon Tattoo you say? - Kindle edition is the cheapest option.

  4. pompurin
    Thumb Down

    Sounds obvious

    But if you put your prices up too high, higher than paperback/hardback, anyone with a sane mind is going to look elsewhere. That includes non-legit channels. Instead of making some money, you're now making £0.

    The consumer is unlikely to accept a higher price for e-books than traditional print, no matter what the publishers want us to believe.

  5. Ale

    Re: Clarkson price

    If you look at that Kindle edition of the Clarkson book, you will see just under the outrageous price, "This price was set by the publisher".

    This is what is being investigated. The publishers are forcing Amazon to place outrageous prices on ebooks.

    I wouln't be surprised if it wasn't Amazon that asked the OFT to investigate.

    1. Eponymous Cowherd

      Also see reviews

      Quite a few reviewers of this book are giving it one star and commenting that its part of the price fixing "scam".

      So while publishers can fix prices, they are probably going to have to accept poor reader reviews on Kindle. The knock-on effect is that prospective readers see price £stupid, rating (*) and go and look for something better.

      1. chr0m4t1c

        It looks like they already are

        I've just had a quick scan through the Kindle Top 100 Paid list; most of the books on it are under £3, a handful are over £5 and only one over £10.

        It certainly looks like people are voting with their wallets.

  6. Alan 6

    Daylight robbery

    Bought a Sony PRS-350 at christmas and am totally shocked at the price of books.

    I look at one at the weekend. hardback £12.99, epub £13.98, paperback £4.54

    Amazon Kindkle edition £3.95

    I bought it in paperback from Asda at £3.84

    PRS-350 going on ebay I think...

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Waterstones are very pricey

      With a price differential like that, it's clearly not an agency priced book; despite the horrible interface, it's worth checking with WH Smith, Kobo and some of the other stores that sell books in ePub format. Waterstones is very often the most expensive.

      I did a few comparisons last year; four books that I bought to take on holiday in August were £17.18 at WH Smith, £17.12 on Amazon, or I could have paid £33.86 from Waterstones.

      Even after the introduction of agency pricing, Waterstones were still expensive - a selection of books I was tracking last summer was £184.62 on Amazon, £205.95 at WH Smith, and £227.95 with Waterstones.

      If I were Sony, I'd very much regret having jumped into bed with one of the priciest eBook vendors in the UK; it can't be doing the image of their readers much good at all.

  7. andy gibson

    Neg repping the first AC post

    Seems like Kindle, like Apple, has its fanbois

    1. The Commenter formally known as Matt
      Thumb Down


      or could it be the first post made an incorrect statement about a product they know nothing about and then flamed everyone who brought that product?

      Many people replied saying that the comment was incorrect, many more couldn't be bothered to feed the troll and just downvoted (which is sort of the whole point of being able to vote!)

    2. Semihere

      Re: Neg repping the first AC post

      You may call them 'fanbois', but having read their posts I'd be more inclined to call them 'better informed users'.

      It's not fanboi-ism to correct technical FUD. And no, I don't own a Kindle or any other ebook reader.

    3. Daniel B.

      FUD correction

      Not fanbois, but merely pointing out that the "walled garden" on Kindle devices is FUD. By the way, it is the Apple fanbois who usually claim that Kindle also has a "walled garden".

      1. chr0m4t1c

        @FUD correction

        There's a lot of "walled garden" FUD spread about both devices.

        Kindle works with DRM-free formats and Amazon's AZW proprietary DRM format books only available from Amazon.

        Apple's iBooks work with DRM-free formats and Apple's own proprietary FairPlay DRM books only available from Apple.

        If you took the first thread and swapped "Amazon Kindle" and "Apple iBooks" across all the posts you can bet that the up/down votes would also have swapped even though there is no real difference other than Kindle is clearly lovely and fluffy and our friend whereas Apple are in fact the Great Satan.

        Quick, downvote me, because it looks like I'm defending Apple.

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Sounds like price fixing....

    ...but by the authorities. Who gives them the mandate to tell others what price to set on their books? If publishers decide to stupidly overprice ebooks, then these ebooks will be on torrents or parallel publishers, if need be from .cn and .ru, will step in. It's that simple.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      price fixing

      Publishing houses disallows sellers to set their own price on ebooks they sell. Which means there can't be competition between bookshops (e.g. Amazon vs Barnes & Noble) as they all are obliged to use same price. So of course, this is price fixing by publishing houses.

      Although of course, pushing customers to .cn or .ru "originated" ebooks is huge own goal but, as RIAA teach us, eventually customers (those few left) pay for it anyway.

    2. graeme leggett

      There is also the possibility of price fixing in cartels

      As when publishers seek not to undercut each others prices in general terms.

      So say latest reprint of Clarkson's car-themed pontificating from the Sunday Times comes out in ebook form at much the same price as the cut and paste of James May's motoring-based musings from the Observer.

    3. Pablo

      I don't think you understand

      Publishers can charge retailers any stupid price they want, yes, but they don't have a right to tell the retailer how much they should resell it for. At least, that's how it works with real books, I've yet to be convinced there's any reason beyond greed why it should be different with the virtual kind.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mind Filter

      Move along, Destroy All Monsters. There's no liberal-socialist conspiracy here.

  9. Tieger

    @andy gibson

    because people must be fanbois to neg-rep blatently false information?

    theres no need to buy kindle books from amazon to read them on the kindle. its not a locked-in ecosystem.

    yes its ridiculous that e-books cost more than physical books (considering you're getting less for your money), but thats a completely seperate issue to whether or not its an amazon-locked product.

  10. dotdavid

    eBook prices

    The publishers would claim that the costs that go into making a book are mainly things like author's fees, editor's, publicists' etc. and such fees have to be covered by electronic books as well as their dead tree counterparts.

    However there's no real excuse why an eBook should cost more than a paperback, in my opinion, so this investigation is welcome.

    Back in the good olden days of a decent exchange rate with the US I'd buy a lot of my ebooks on US sites - where apart from having cheaper list prices they'd also be cheaper due to the exchange rate. There's a lot less of that nowadays, but it's why it's worth only buying e-readers that let you purchase from elsewhere. I think pretty much all of them do, including Amazon's Kindle, as long as you're savvy enough to buy the right format.

    However the key thing for me is that while people like you and me might be able to buy from stores abroad and use, er, less ethical ways of obtaining our ebooks from certain websites, your average consumer, buying books on the Kindle store, is likely to get ripped off badly which isn't going to do any favours for the technology in the long term. That is why this investigation is sorely needed.

  11. Spider

    those who do not learn from history, and all that

    So the publishers collude to artificially inflate the price of a digital product as it begins to gain ground over it's physical predecessor.

    Can't imagine how even vaguely tech savvy flexibly moralled users will react?

    Not saying it's right or wrong. Just predictable.

  12. Morningstar
    Jobs Horns

    Publishers Pushed?

    You'll find his Jobsness at the heart of this, Apple have 'encouraged' publishers to head down the agency route so that they can all pay their 30% tithe on each purchase, and to ensure that no one can buy books cheaper than they cost on the iRipoff platform. Random House have just caved and said they will move to agency.

    You can read just about anything through the kindle, but to read books from Amazon you'll either need a kindle app, or Calibre, and the relevent plugins, for other ereaders such as the Sony.

    Another option is go to Smashwords, Wattpad or Feedbooks, all three have good selections of free books, the quality does vary though.

    1. hexx
      Thumb Down

      wasn't it amazon

      who set split to 70% amazon and 30% author???? after iBooks introduced their model amazon was forced to change their.

  13. Rob Crawford

    ePub vs .mobi

    I have a kindle & I don't feel locked in with it

    If I get an ePub book I simple run it through kindlegen (supplied free by Amazon) and it converts, unless somebody has passed it through Calibre (because Calibre screws up the metatags)

    I have shed loads of .pdf files and so far haven't had a single failure after passing it through

    No I'm not a fanboi I just have something that works and is easier on my eyes than any other ebook.

    Anyway don't feed the trolls they can't even read

  14. FreeTard


    Takes me two weeks on holidays to finish my books, and usually only on the plne on the way home. At hoe why would I want an ebook reader. Its like using a laptop to read a book.

    Crap compred to a real book.

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      did you actually read epaper ?

      epaper is not the same thing as paper because format is different, but it's same easy for the eyes. It's nowhere like LCD screen.

  15. Tron

    The publishers' last stand.

    Most publishers are still living in the late 20thC. Most didn't even manage to transfer to print on demand (PoD) before ebooks became established. They don't control any of this new stuff and they are running scared.

    Late to PoD means that all sorts of Johnny Foreigners created start-ups to flog books off the back of Google Books and nick some of their trade. New publishers also started up beginning with a PoD model (like

    And publishers are well behind on ebooks too. By the time they had worked out what they are, Kindle had taken the market. Amazon own Kindle and have already become the default global distributor of books (slaughtering the national divvy-up, published in US, published in the UK etc, to boot).

    So publishers who once controlled the market are now the farmers to Amazon's Tesco.

    Expect many of them to go the way bookshop chains have gone (and farmers).

    They were just very slow to change, never quite understood that they had an entirely new form of competition, and couldn't get the hang of the new marketplace. Their best responses were a series of mergers and an eNBA.

    This is their last stand and they will lose it.

  16. PreacherBoy

    Its about time.

    I read a lot of ebooks, but only through 1 publishing house, Baen.

    The reason being that 1 they are one of the best sci-fi houses, but mainly due to their pricing of ebooks ($4 to $6). They purposely do not use DRM. They even maintain a free library of ebooks!

    I came about this comment from 2002 from Erixc Flint who oversees the library,and it is interesting the reference to royalties from an authors perspective, and also this comment.

    "At the conference-at least in the public sessions-my remarks were basically greeted with pained silence. But, in private, several publisher representatives told me that they agreed with me-but also told me that trying to get the publishing industry to give up encryption would be impossible. Why? Basically because the corporate bean-counters who now run most of the publishing industry just can't bear the thought of-gasp-GIVING something away for free. Even if it benefits them in the long run."

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    have to agree though, ebook pricing is a scam and a half. The same price for a few bits of data? Where is the cost in producing that? The warehouse they store ebooks in must be chuffing huge and miles away from anywhere to require charging prices like that.

    Oh, it's price fixing you say? Sort it out or *no* one will buy them other than the terminally stupid.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Where's the lock in?

    Got a kindle wifi a couple of weeks back and think it is a lovely bit of kit, zero lock-in to Amazon. Free ebooks all over out of copyright & new ones (legit if you know where to look - and bazillions you can get from non-legit sources). Any of my 2500+ ebooks from previous eras that are not format compatible, quick zap with one of several utils soon sorts them out.

    Drag, drop, bobs yer uncle.

    How much have I paid Amazon? around £80 directly (got my kindle from Tesco, used my vouchers AND got double points too).

    Can't see how this toy is locked in.

    PS I still buy dead tree books - currently around 1000 on my shelves and half as much again stored away. Sometimes convenience wins the day....

  19. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Maybe the kindle is open but you still dont have to buy it

    I can read all the free books on other things and I don't have to carry a kindle about, along with all the other things that do so much more as well.

    Now if someone would sell an e-paper usb/bluetooth/ screen that I could use with any of my already capable devices , without all the horrible extra weight of the kindle then I might be interested.

    1. Peter Kay

      It wouldn't be a mobile/PDA/laptop/tablet then, would it?

      It's all very well to say 'why doesn't someone make a more functional device with an e-ink' screen, but it misses reality.

      e-ink doesn't update quickly and is thus completely unsuitable for most devices. The more it's used, the lower the battery life is - a key point of the Kindle.

      It is possible to run apps on the Kindle, but in the US only (unless you jailbreak it). Overuse of apps will - surprise, surprise, lead to lower battery life..

      I don't understand how you can describe a Kindle as weighty - it weighs considerably less than a hardback, not that more than a large paperback and vastly less than the dead tree equivalent of the 80 books and PDFs I have on mine.

      It isn't perfect, but it is damned good as an e-reader - brilliant screen, can be read one handed squashed up on a train and offers the ability to find books recommended or vaguely remembered by friends there and then. You can't do that with dead tree.

      1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

        e-paper flaws

        "e-ink doesn't update quickly and is thus completely unsuitable for most devices."

        true. I'm hoping Mirasol (from Qualcomm) will change that. Portable & light android device with large, good contrast, colour and fast updating epaper screeen would be ideal. I know Notion Ink , but think it's too heavy and screen is different.

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