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Monday, August 02, 2010, 12:50 pm PT (03:50 pm ET)

E-book contracts from Apple, Amazon spur anticompetitive inquiry

A new review of e-book contracts between publishers and content providers like Apple and Amazon aims to determine whether the deals are anticompetitive.

The office of Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal conducted an initial review of e-book prices from Amazon's Kindle platform and Apple's iBooks, and found that the prices of bestsellers were often identical. Blumenthal said he will push forward with a preliminary review of the agreements made by book publishers, as he is concerned they could be anticompetitive, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"These agreements among publishers, Amazon and Apple appear to have already resulted in uniform prices for many of the most popular e-books—potentially depriving consumers of competitive prices," Blumenthal reportedly said.

The attorney general said he believes the agreements hurt competition by preventing other stores from offering lower e-book prices.

Some major publishers earlier this year switched to the "agency model", which allows the company serving the content to take a cut. In the case of Apple and the iBookstore, the iPad maker keeps 30 percent of all sales while the publisher divvies up the rest.

Blumenthal said he believes the agency model means it is less likely that publishers will offer discounts competing booksellers that serve as an alternative to the Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks storefronts. The Connecticut review comes after the Texas attorney general has also begun a similar inquiry.

Apple announced in June that it had already grabbed 22 percent of the e-book market, in just over two months after the iBookstore launched. Apple sold more than 5 million digital books to early adopters of the iPad touchscreen tablet.