If you have an Amazon Kindle tablet or an Amazon account, you may have heard news about Amazon sending out refunds to people just like you – free money in your account to spend on new books among certain publishers.
These emails are not a trick, promotion or bonus. The Amazon Kindle settlement was an important milestone in the history of ebooks, and if you have purchased Kindle ebooks through your Amazon account in the past, chances are good you can receive money, without doing anything. So check your spam filters to make sure you did not accidentally skip over those refunds (most were sent out on March 25, 2014), and read on to find the important details behind your credit.
Settlement? Settlement for What?
The Amazon Kindle settlement is the result of a very large, very important lawsuit between several mainstream publishers, the Department of Justice, and ebook sellers like Apple and Amazon. The lawsuit dealt with how Apple and Amazon charged for the ebooks. The Department of Justice believed that publishers, specifically Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin, got together to price-fix ebooks in an effort to keep the prices as high as possible. That lawsuit eventually incorporated sellers like Amazon because of their connection to the price-fixing scam.
The publishers involved eventually settled: Part of the Amazon Kindle settlement was a refund provided to certain customers. While not directly involved, Amazon does act as a medium to return the money paid out by those publishers. If you’re an Apple user, you may be interested to note that Apple is still involved in the lawsuit and has not yet agreed to refund any of the money.
So what does this mean for you? The refund applies if you bought a book from one of the five listed publishers between April 1, 2010, and May 21, 2012. Those major publishers are responsible for the majority of ebook sales, so if you are an ebook fan, chances are good that you qualify. You receive a bit more money if you bought bestsellers, but even other books from the right publishers still count.
Those Kindle Credit Emails
The Kindle emails are simple notifications, telling you briefly about how much money has been added to your account because of the settlement. If you think you might have missed the email, you could check your spam filter, or simple go to your Amazon account and see how much money has been added. There’s no need to click any extra links or agree to any waivers, the money is already yours.
How much money you can expect depends on specific purchases. Every bestseller book you bought in the timeframe will win you around $3.17. Every non-bestseller will net you $0.73. If you are interested in additional details, Amazon has a full page explaining the process. You can spend this money on any future Kindle purchase from any publisher.
What This Means for eBooks
The publisher lawsuit on the part of the Justice Department was, in many ways, a preventative measure. The ebook business is still a relatively new industry, and the lawsuit was designed to nip price-fixing in the bud and allow the market to control prices more directly in the future.
On one hand, this is bad news for the publishers because digital downloads tend to drive prices down (as they did for music) and publisher business models may grow obsolete as a result. Authors, too, may have to settle for diminished royalties. E-commerce sellers like Amazon have a more complicated relationship with digital book sales because they stand to benefit from more overall business and tend to offer self-publishing options as well, even as they stand to lose revenue on a sale-by-sale basis.
On the other hand, the lawsuit and settlement is good for buyers because it allows prices to fall more freely, at least in the ebook world. If you are still a fan of traditional books, you expect to pay a little more for your hardcopy version. If you are a digital book downloader, you can rest easy in knowing that ebook prices remain flexible.