The Office of Fair Trading is to launch a probe into the pricing of digital books in the UK, investigating a number of complaints that publishers and online retailers could be breaching antitrust law.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the probe follows a similar move by U.S authorities six months ago – with the rise in digital readers like the Kindle and the iPad, book publishers and retailers have battled to effectively price electronic books, in attempt to safeguard their revenue stream and sales in bricks and mortar stores.
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This has led to a number of high-profile publishers setting their own pricing structures, restricting retailer pricing as a result. With pricing responsibility on the publishers’ shoulders, electronic books have sometimes been priced at a similar cost to its paperback counterpart, even though the electronic version doesn’t incur printing or distribution costs.
It is thought the OFT will focus on the pricing model employed by publishers, both Penguin and HarperCollins have confirmed they are among the publishers under investigation.