Heads up, ebook buyers: Here’s how much you’re likely to get in the Apple ebook settlement

Source: Shutterstock / zimmytws

All five publishers who were accused of conspiring with Apple to set ebook prices at the launch of the iBookstore have settled with the federal government and with the states, and until now it has been unclear how much money customers would get from those settlements. On Friday, though, the states released new documentation laying out how much people who made qualifying purchases are likely to receive.

Short answer: If the states’ settlement with the publishers is finalized, customers who bought an ebook from any one of the five settling publishers between April 1, 2010 and May 1, 2012 will be eligible for a refund of up to $3.06 per book. If you’re one of those people, you’ll get that money as a credit to the digital bookstore where you purchased the book.

It’s taken awhile to even get to this “final” — but still preliminary — dollar amount. That’s because HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster settled with the Department of Justice right away, back in April 2012, but the remaining two publishers in the lawsuit — Penguin and Macmillan — didn’t agree to settle until December 2012 and February 2013, respectively. Penguin and Macmillan’s settlements have been approved, but not finalized.

So last year, without Penguin and Macmillan included in the settlement, it appeared that eligible consumers would get a refund between $0.25 and $1.32 per ebook. Once Macmillan and Penguin decided to settle, though, the total settlement amounts increased — to $162.25 million — and so the payments will be bigger.

Assuming the Macmillan and Penguin settlements go through — they’re set to be finalized on December 6, 2013 — anybody who bought an ebook from Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin or Macmillan between April 1, 2010 and May 1, 2012 will get a refund of $3.06 if that ebook was a New York Times bestseller at any point in its publishing history, and $0.73 per ebook that was never a NYT bestseller.

How will you know if you qualified for the settlement? You should receive an email from the ebook retailer. You might actually have received this email last year, if you made qualifying purchases from HarperCollins, Hachette or Simon & Schuster. But if you bought a qualifying ebook from Penguin or Macmillan, you probably did not receive the email notice until today.

Regardless of which publisher you purchased an ebook from, though, your settlement amount will be the same. And you’ll receive it as a credit to the digital bookstore that you bought the ebook from — Kindle, Google or whomever.

This settlement guide that my colleague Jeff Roberts published last year is still a good guide; just swap out the dollar amounts mentioned there for the higher figures provided in this post. You can also check out the states’ ebook settlement website; I’ve embedded the key document below. And Amazon has made its own ebook settlement page, too.

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