Book publishers, as part of a price-fixing settlement with state governments, agreed to pay small credits to consumers who bought eligible ebooks between 2010 and 2013. Those credits started showing up in Kindle(s AMZN) customers’ accounts Tuesday. Barnes & Noble (s BKS) also says credits will start showing up for Nook customers today.
Anybody who bought an ebook from Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin or Macmillan between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 gets a credit of $3.17 if that book was a New York Times bestseller at any point in its publishing history and a credit of $0.73 if the book was never a NYT bestseller. (The only exception is if you live in Minnesota, which reached a separate settlement; Minnesota customers get a credit of $3.93 or $0.94 per ebook.)
The publishers were accused of conspiring with Apple to fix ebook prices at the launch of the iBookstore. None of the publishers admitted guilt, but said they settled to avoid disrupting their business.
The settlement applies to all ebook retailers, but Amazon appears to be the first to start providing the credits. If you were eligible for a credit, you should have received an email last year from the retailer you bought the book from, and you should get another email when the credit is in your account. Amazon customers got emails Tuesday and can also go to the Kindle Books section of Amazon’s website to see if they have a credit.
The credits can only be applied to book purchases. As Amazon explains, “We will automatically apply your available credit the next time you purchase a Kindle book or a print book sold by Amazon.com, regardless of publisher.” In that sense, the settlement money that the publishers paid out is largely going right back into the book business.
Consumers could also receive a further credit from Apple once the dust settles in an ongoing price-fixing trial. Unlike the book publishers, Apple has chosen to fight an antitrust case brought by the Justice Department, state governments and class action lawyers — but has so far lost at each step of the way.