The five publishers in the Justice Department's crosshairs are HarperCollins which ironically also owns the WSJ, Simon & Schuster; Hachette Book Group; Penguin Group (USA); and Macmillan. Some of those involved, according to the report, have been discussing a settlement which, if successful, could potentially lead to less expensive e-books. That said, not all the publishers are involved in such discussions.
When Apple introduced its first iPad in 2010, it was seen as a possible rival to the Amazon Kindle, and the iBookStore was seen as a threat to Amazon.com's e-book sales. That threat never materialized, however, but in Steve Jobs' bio, published late last year, Jobs said that prior to the iPad's intro,
Prior to this change, Amazon.com was the giant in the e-book industry, and the industry was using a wholesale model: publishers sold e-books to retailers which then sold the e-books at a price they set themselves. In the case of Amazon.com, it was trying to build market share, so it often sold e-books below cost.
In the eyes of publishers, this was training consumers that e-books could have low, low prices, and they didn't want buyers to get used to prices that were unrealistically low.
The Justice Department believes that Apple and publishers worked together to get this system changed.
A settlement could signal a return to wholesale pricing, which would in turn probably mean a return to lower-priced e-books. The big winner here could be Amazon.com, which despite Apple's entry into e-books, has remained a dominant force in the market.