States including Maryland, Ohio and Texas said they reached a US$69 million settlement with three U.S. publishers over alleged price-fixing for electronic books, reports “Reuters” (

The agreements were made with Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers and Simon & Schuster., according to statements from attorneys general in states also including Colorado and Florida. The settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge in New York, couldn’t be confirmed in court records, notes “Reuters.”

The U.S. sued Apple and five publishers in April, charging that the defendants conspired to limit e-book price competition. Apple and Macmillan and the Penguin Group have refused to settle.

The brouhaha centers on, among other things, Apple’s move to change the way that publishers charged for e-books as it prepared to introduce its first iPad in 2010. Traditionally, publishers sold books to retailers for roughly half of the recommended cover price. Under that “wholesale model,” booksellers were then free to offer those books to customers for less than the cover price if they wished.

Apple suggested moving to an “agency model,” under which the publishers would set the price of the book and Apple would take a 30% cut. However, Apple also insisted that publishers couldn’t let rival retailers sell the same book at a lower price.

Apple has publicly rejected charges that it conspired to fix prices of electronic books, calling the U.S. government’s antitrust lawsuit a “fundamentally flawed” endeavor that could discourage competition and harm consumers. In a filing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan earlier this year, Apple said it didn’t conspire with anyone or fix prices for e-books to thwart Amazon’s dominance of that market, the article adds. In fact, the company says its entry into the book market has actually fueled demand for ebooks by forcing Amazon and rivals, including Barnes & Noble Inc, to compete more aggressively, including by upgrading e-reader technology.