E-books on the iPad's iBookstore

Collusion? What collusion? Apple last night denied the Department of Justice’s antitrust claims that it illegally fixed e-book prices with major publishers, which ultimately made e-books more expensive than they were prior to the launch of Apple’s iBookstore.

Apple is joined by Penguin Group and MacMillan, who are also denying the antitrust claims. HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster, on the other hand, settled with the government on Wednesday morning.

Tom Neumary, a spokesman for Apple, released the following statement last night:

The DOJ’s accusation of collusion against Apple is simply not true. The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry. Since then customers have benefited from eBooks that are more interactive and engaging. Just as we’ve allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore.

Following the Department of Justice’s suit, 16 states followed up with lawsuits of their own.

At issue is Apple’s use of an “agency model” to set e-book prices, which gave publishers the ability to control the prices. That’s all well and good, but Apple also arranged it so that the publishers couldn’t offer their e-books cheaper anywhere else on the Web. That quickly led to higher e-book prices on Amazon’s Kindle store. Now that this agency structure is being questioned, we’ll likely finally see e-book prices dip in the next few years.