Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 5, 2013, 4:30pm

SEATTLE (Legal Newsline) -- Amazon, the world's largest online retailer, began sending emails to its Kindle customers last week, explaining the benefits of electronic book price-fixing settlements.

Last fall, Amazon notified eligible customers about settlements by publishers Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC and Simon & Schuster Inc.

Since then, the two other defendant publishers, Macmillan and Penguin, have settled the same claims.

Under the proposed settlements, the publishers will provide funds for a credit that will be applied directly to eligible customers' Amazon accounts. Amazon designs and markets the Kindle, a popular eBook reader.

While several of the settlements already have been approved, the more recent proposed settlements are still subject to court approval.

A hearing on those settlements is set for Dec. 6. If the court approves the settlements and no one appeals, the credits should be available beginning in January 2014, Amazon said.

However, a federal court and a coalition of state attorneys general have decided to distribute the credits all at once, Amazon explained.

This delays distribution of the settlement funds, but it increases the amount of the credit eligible customers will receive.

"When the Attorneys General and Plaintiff Class notify us that the settlements are final, we will automatically apply the credit to the accounts of eligible customers and send another email notifying them that the credit is available," the company said in its email.

Amazon said it will not know the amount of the credit until the court approves the settlements, but it is estimated that it will range from $0.73 to $3.06 for every eligible Kindle book that was purchased between April 2010 and May 2012 by Kindle customers who do not live in Minnesota.

The attorneys general and plaintiff class estimate that the credit for Minnesota residents will range from $0.93 to $3.82.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson did not participate in the lawsuit; claims on behalf of that state's residents were settled by a plaintiff class on different terms through separate negotiations.

In July, a federal judge ruled that Apple Inc. violated state and federal law by conspiring to fix prices in the market for eBooks.

Judge Denise Cote for the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Apple played a central role in executing and facilitating a conspiracy meant to eliminate retail price competition to raise eBook prices.

The company -- the only defendant to go to trial -- has said it plans to fight the ruling.

In February, Holtzbrinck LLC, doing business as Macmillan, agreed to settle the same claims against it for a $12 million payment to consumers in participating states. A $75 million settlement in the eBooks matter was reached with Penguin in May.

Also in February, Cote granted approval of prior settlements with publishers Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Hachette.

Amazon is not a party to the lawsuit.

"In addition to the account credit, the settlements impose limitations on the publishers' ability to control eBook prices," Amazon said in its email to Kindle customers.

"We think these settlements are a big win for readers."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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