If you’re a US resident who bought any agency-priced e-books from one of the major e-book sellers and don’t live in Minnesota, rejoice! A $69 million settlement between 49 states (plus five territories) and three of the five agency publishers means you stand to receive at least 25 cents per e-book you bought. Woo-hoo, you’re in the money! (Minnesota opted out of the settlement.) Assuming the court approves, the publishers will pay out the money into a fund and e-book stores will start notifying their customers within 30 days.
The payout per agency-priced e-book bought will be valued at $1.32 if the book was a New York Times Bestseller at the time they bought it, 32 cents if had been a NYT Bestseller during the first year of its publication, and 25 cents for non-NYT Bestseller backlist titles. If you bought the books from Amazon, B&N, Kobo, or Apple, you’ll get an account credit unless you state you’d prefer a check; if you bought them from Google or Sony you’ll just get a check. And about $10 million of the settlement will be set aside for administrative costs. Any money remaining after everyone’s been compensated will go to literacy charities.
Of course, anyone who did buy an agency-priced book probably spent a lot more than 25 cents or even $1.32 more than they would have on it if it weren’t agency priced. And while there are still two non-settling publishers plus Apple to shake down for pennies, it’s doubtful that even if they doubled the payout it would still bring those prices down to pre-agency levels.
The bright side is that it will be a lot easier to find and compensate the people who qualify for the payouts, given that all the stores have computerized records of who bought what e-book. But in the end, all this really means is that you’ll get some store credit that might entice you to buy another book, and give the publishers more money. Really, class-action suits are generally worthless for anything except enriching lawyers. (For example, I got a 55-cent check a few weeks ago for something to do with Google AdWords ten years ago. 55 cents! Was it even worth the cost of sending that check out?)
So what do you plan to do with your 25 cents per e-book?