Apple denies illegally fixing e-book prices

Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday said the lawsuit was necessary to protect Americans from "anticompetitive harm." What he didn't say is that it's likely to fail.

(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON - Apple Inc. (AAPL) said Friday the government's accusation that it conspired with major book publishers to raise the price of e-books is untrue.

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said that instead, Apple fostered innovation and competition by introducing its iBookstore in 2010. He said customers have benefited from e-books that are more interactive and engaging.

Apple's entry into the e-book marketplace has broken "Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry,'' said Neumayr. He also released thisstatement to blog AllThingsD:

"The Justice Department's accusation of collusion against Apple is simply not true. The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry. Since then customers have benefited from eBooks that are more interactive and engaging. Just as we've allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore."

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VIDEO: Apple, two others sued in e-book scheme

Lawsuits filed this week by the Justice Department and 15 states said Apple and the publishers cost consumers more than $100 million in the past two years by adding $2 or $3, sometimes as much as $5, to the price of each e-book.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said executives at the highest levels of the companies conspired to eliminate competition among e-book sellers. Justice's antitrust chief, Sharis Pozen, said the executives were desperate to get the marketer of Kindle e-book readers to raise the $9.99 price point it had set for the most popular e-book titles, because that was substantially below their hardcover prices.

The federal government reached a settlement with three of the publishers, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Shuster (Simon & Schuster is owned by CBS.) But it will proceed with its lawsuit in federal court in New York City against Apple and Holtzbrinck Publishers, doing business as Macmillan, and The Penguin Publishing Co. Ltd., doing business as Penguin Group.

Connecticut and Texas, two of the 15 states filing a separate lawsuit, reached agreements with Hachette and HarperCollins to provide $52 million in restitution to consumers, using a formula based on the number of states participating and the number of e-books sold in each state. Other states in the case may sign onto the agreement, and other companies might be persuaded to join.