OFT launches inquiry into e-book industry

The consumer protection watchdog has launched an investigation into the fast-growing electronic book market, over claims that pricing deals between publishers and retailers may have breached competition rules. The move follows a similar inquiry launched in the US last year.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) this week revealed it had opened an investigation "into arrangements between certain publishers and retailers for the sale of e-books" following a "significant number" of complaints.

The regulator did not name any of the parties affected by the inquiry, but is investigating whether any of the industry deals were anti-competitive and could affect trade in the UK. The investigation will be led by Andrew Groves, deputy director of the OFT. The issue focuses on publishers' ability to set e-book prices using the "agency" pricing model, which has been held responsible for stifling competition.

Amazon dominates the sale ofe-books, with 500,000 titles available to buy in the UK and a further million available free. The group said its Kindle e-reader had been the best-selling product over Christmas and for all of 2010. Apple muscled into the space last year when it launched its iBookstore, which allows consumers to download titles to their iPad tablets and iPhones. Sony and Samsung also offer e-readers in the UK.

The OFT released few details on the investigation but said the case was at an early stage and "it should not be assumed that the parties involved have breached competition law".

E-books are continuing to soar in popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, and celebrities including Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston have been spotted glued to their Kindles. Amazon revealed that in its last financial quarter, sales of e-books outstripped paper copies in the US; the company said it had sold 115 e-books for every 100 paperbacks. The numbers did not include downloads of free books. Amazon's announcement came just three years after the launch of the Kindle. In the US market, the book retailer Barnes & Noble has joined the competition with the launch of its Nook e-reader.

In August, Connecticut's attorney-general said his office had started an investigation into the pricing of digital books over concerns that agreements between retailers and publishers were anti-competitive. It has expressed these concerns to Apple and Amazon.

The news from the OFT came a day after Sony attacked Apple, saying the Californian electronics giant was blocking Sony's customers from reading e-books on Apple's devices.

Apple has blocked Sony from offering software that will allow iPad and iPhone users to read books they have bought at Sony's online store, the Japanese group said.

Concerns have been raised over the threat posed by e-books to high-street retailers, as well as the threat of piracy. Dan Cryan, an analyst at Screen Digest, believes the market is about to see a surge in book piracy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map