* Apple, 5 publishers accused of conspiring to raise prices
* HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette agreed to settle
* Apple, Macmillan and Penguin fighting US govt lawsuit
* Amazon says e-book prices will come down "soon"
WASHINGTON, Sept 6 A U.S. judge approved on
Thursday a Justice Department settlement with three publishers
accused of conspiring with Apple Inc and other
publishers to push up the prices of electronic books.
U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan said comments
on the settlement were "voluminous and overwhelmingly negative,"
but there was no excuse for price-fixing.
The Justice Department had accused Apple and five publishers
in April of illegally colluding on prices as part of an effort
to fight internet retailer Amazon.com Inc's dominance
The publishers who agreed to settle are News Corp's
HarperCollins Publishers Inc, CBS Corp's Simon &
Schuster Inc and Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group.
Apple; Macmillan, a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von
Holtzbrinck GmbH; and Pearson Plc's Penguin Group have
vowed to fight the Justice Department's lawsuit with a trial due
to start on June 3 next year.
The proposed settlement was unpopular with bookseller Barnes
& Noble Inc and the American Booksellers Association,
which represents independent stores, with both arguing that it
would strengthen Amazon's dominance.
Many people in the book publishing and selling industry
accuse Amazon of selling books below cost to drive other e-book
sellers out of business, and then raising prices. But these
concerns were not adequate to prevent approval of the deal
struck with the Justice Department, wrote Cote.
"Even if Amazon was engaged in predatory pricing, this is no
excuse for price-fixing," she said in her 45-page opinion.
Apple is accused of convincing the five publishers to use
the "agency model," that allows publishers to set the price of
e-books, and in turn Apple would take a 30 percent cut.
Under the settlement, the three settling publishers agreed
not to use the agency model for two years, instead allowing
retailers to pay for e-books and then charge what they like.
Speaking at an event in California to unveil new Kindle Fire
tablet computers, Amazon executive Jay Marine said the
settlement was "great for customers." He said the prices of
e-books would go down "soon."
Electronic books more than doubled in popularity in 2011,
with e-books sales making up 15 percent of the market last year
compared to 6 percent in 2010, according to a report by the
Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study
While e-books increased in strength, bringing in more than
$2 billion in 2011, the majority of publishers' revenue still
came from print books, with $11.1 billion in 2011.
The lawsuit is USA v. Apple Inc, et al, U.S. District Court
for the Southern District of New York, case No. 12-cv-2826.