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Google, Amazon ask to shield sales in Apple ebook trial; judge says issues have “shifted”

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Apple(s aapl) and the Justice Department will make closing arguments on Thursday in a closely-watched trial over whether the retail giant brokered an illegal conspiracy with publishers to fix the price of ebooks.

The case has provided more drama than expected, with nostalgic discussions of Steve Jobs¬†and a concession on Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote that the issues have “somewhat shifted” during the trial and that “things change.” Cote had earlier raised eyebrows during a pre-trial hearing when she said her “tentative view” was that the government would prove an illegal conspiracy.

Wednesday also saw Google(s goog) and Amazon(s amzn) file new petitions asking that Cote require Apple to redact sales information from the public exhibits that Apple will put on the court record. Amazon wants to redact certain of its print sales as well as the growth rate of free ebooks between 2009 and 2011.

Google, meanwhile, complains that Apple wants to “splash some of the most confidential Google material onto the public record.” The company also describes itself as a “very small rival in ebooks” and asks the court to protect it from “serious competitive harm.”

My colleague, Laura Owen, will be at the trial in New York today and will have highlights from closing arguments. Judge Cote will issue her decision in the coming weeks or months.

Here’s Google’s petition to keep its revenue share with publishers a secret:

Google Petition to Redact

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4 Responses to “Google, Amazon ask to shield sales in Apple ebook trial; judge says issues have “shifted””

  1. Well we are back in business people ….Major portion of the lawsuit between the conglomerates are mere lack of ethics… has been time we have had some healthy mode of competition . Its just a matter of time ;that only the best in service remains .

  2. I have no opinion on whether Amazon should have to show its sales figures. I think the judge will decide what she thinks is best for the case. But I don’t think you can “blame” this case on Amazon. Whether or not the DOJ got alerted to the situation by a Seattle law firm, if the activities of all the big publishers and Apple had not looked so very much like collusion and price fixing, the DOJ would have said no thanks, and walked away. And Amazon can hardly be said to have “harmed” the ebook market when they in effect created it. All the parties involved took the path they thought would make them the most money in the long run. Amazon did that by discounting ebooks, even losing money on some titles; the publishers did it by insisting on agency pricing so they could raise ebook prices. Google may still be a small player in ebooks, but it’s not from lack of trying. They have a huge number of titles, but there is no Google equivalent to the Kindle or Nook.
    The question being decided is, did Apple encourage the publishers to collude to raise prices? We will see what the judge says.

  3. I agree with the previous commenter. Amazon has been the instigator of this case from the beginning, and should be made to bear the costs instead of the taxpayer for trying to muzzle Apple and the other publishers by using the Dept. of Justice to do its dirty work. Amazon has done untold damage to the ebook market by trying to corner it, just as the robber barons of the 1920s tried to corner the market on a variety of things and punished the workers without any regard for the consequences. The stock market crashed as a result. Now, it is possible that Judge Cote will decide in favor of Apple and look at Amazon. It’s only karma.

  4. I can understand Google’s concerns. They’re a small player in the ebook market and had little to nothing to do with this lawsuit being launched.

    But Amazon is the 800-pound gorilla of ebook sales and its market dominance at the time of Apple’s alleged crimes is a major factor in what was going on. Also, a very good case can be made that Amazon pushed the DOJ into filing this lawsuit. The law firm that advised the DOJ to take up this case is based in Seattle only a leisurely five minute walk from Amazon’s corporate headquarters.

    As taxpayers, we’re stuck with the cost of the DOJ’s Amazon-inspired lawsuit. It’s only fair that Amazon pay something for the trouble they’ve created and for them, there’s no more just punishment than being being forced to open up a few of their sales numbers.