If you've been keeping up with the controversy surrounding publishers who adopted the 'Agency Model' for retailers selling e-books, it appears that The European Commission (who began investigating a number of publishers over possible contravention of EU regulations) has made an initial finding.
For anyone who's missed the ongoing saga, the agency model is where the publisher sets a price that retailers must sell that publisher's e-books for; this prevents retailers from offering their own discount deals. I've been posting about this agency issue since late 2010.
Earlier this year the same publishers were faced with an agreement with the US Justice Department concerning the future of the agency model. But even this is still ongoing as this Bookseller item explains ' Publishers and Apple want delay in settlement agreements' claiming, " “The government is seeking to impose a remedy on Apple before there has been any finding of an antitrust violation.” ".
So to the EU.
The Competition Commission in the UK earlier this year stopped their investigation as the EC decided they would take action on potential breaches of legislation. And obviously they would have a bigger shovel to hit publishers with compared to the UK by itself...
"The publishers and Apple have agreed for two years not to "restrict, limit or impede" retailers from reducing the price of e-books or offering discounts. They have also agreed not to enter into any e-book agreement that contains a the most favoured nation (MFN) clause for five years." (Bookseller article)
This does not apply to Penguin, who have not reached an agreement with the EC.
"The EC is now road-testing the agreements and has called for observations to be submitted within one month, otherwise they will become binding shortly thereafter." (Bookseller article)
So the battle is far from over, but by early next year I'd expect to see a few pricing changes.
Sadly I don't think it will bode well for e-book royalty rates for writers contracted to those publishers. And I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes even harder for unknowns to be taken on by the big firms, even with an agent.
This may be the time for independent publishers to see a further leap in interest and more submissions...