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EU probes e-book publishers and Apple

by on 7 Dec, 2011

The EU is to formally investigate whether Apple and 5 European publishers are gouging the e-book market.  Have they conspired to set prices and so rig the market, is the question.

E-books more expensive than paper

 E-books are more expensive than paper editions, much to the surprise of many experts.  Manufacture and distribution of paper copies are only 15% of total costs.  And in most countries e-books have vat on them whereas paper books do not.

The five publishers are:

  • Hachette Livre (owned byLagardère Publishing,France) ;
  • Harper Collins (owned by News Corp,USA);
  • Simon & Schuster (owned by CBS Corp,USA);
  • Penguin (owned by Pearson Group,United Kingdom); and
  • Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck (owner of, among others, Macmillan, and based inGermany).

 Serious subjects

The top selling e-books tend to be at the more serious end of the market.  Even as early as 2009 special interest and scientific e-books totalled £130 million in sales in theUK, according to the British Publishers Association.

 E-books will account for 14.2% of the UK book market by 2015, according to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers.  This is up from 0.2% in 2009.

 In a survey of potential users of e-books in theUK, PwC found that:

  • 21% of readers will not change their behaviour and switch to e-books;
  • 50% of readers will use e-books and paper; and
  • Only 4% will only use e-books.

Rigged market or low demand?

The low take up, vat and the rather cool attitude to e-books by many readers, rather than any market rigging by publishers and Apple, may account for the high prices of e-books.

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