When Apple decided to get into the e-book business, it joined a conspiracy with major publishers to raise book prices as much as 50 percent, a judge determined Wednesday.

Apple says it will appeal and argues that, on the contrary, its entry into digital book-selling helped offer consumers greater choice in a market dominated by Amazon.

Amazon, however, kept prices low, at $9.99 a book (ironically mirroring Apple’s business model in the music business). Amazon could force publishers to keep prices low as long as it was the only viable market for their wares. When Apple launched the iBooks store, publishers simultaneously raised their prices.

“Apple is confronted with the fact that the conspiracy succeeded. It not only succeeded, it did so in record-setting time and at the precise moment that Apple entered the e-book market,” said U.S. District Judge Denise Cote.

Cote said comments from Apple’s late CEO Steve Jobs, who said one day all book prices would be the same, helped lose the company the case.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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