Justice Department May Sue Apple, Five Major Houses

The Justice Department has warned Apple and Penguin, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster that it may sue them for allegedly colluding to raise the price of electronic books by adopting the agency pricing model. The crux of the complaint is familiar—that the major publishers, worried that Amazon’s $9.99 price for e-books would quickly erode the market for print books—conspired with Apple to introduce the agency model to stabilize pricing. The lawyers for the Justice Department reportedly aren’t persuaded by the argument that the agency model has increased competition because prices went up. Home Depot Stops Selling Books

The Home Depot will no longer be selling books except for its own Home Depot 1-2-3 line. In a letter sent to publishers, associate merchant Sarah Moffat stated that, after considering “over a year of intense analytical information both internally and with our book suppliers,” as well as “customer insight surveys,” the home improvement superstore is going to discontinue the “book subclass” in order to “better optimize the space in the front end of the store.” The store sells how-to and gardening titles.

Wiley to Sell Most Consumer Properties

John Wiley is scaling back its professional/trade business and is looking to sell its most consumer-oriented lines, including Frommer’s. In all, the assets being put up for sale generated revenue of $85 million in the fiscal year ended April 30, 2011, about 19.5% of the segment’s revenue. Other categories on the block are culinary (cookbooks, including titles taken over from Meredith), general interest, nautical, pets (Howell House), crafts, Webster’s New World dictionaries, and CliffsNotes. The properties generated about $6 million in profits in fiscal 2011.

Sales Inch Up At Wiley, Earnings Jump

John Wiley reported that revenue rose 1% in the third quarter ended January 31, to $451.1 million, while net income increased 38%, to $62.9 million. In the professional/trade segment, in which Wiley has put a number of properties up for sale, revenue fell 6% (5% excluding foreign currency exchange,) with declines in the consumer and business lines the major factors in the drop. Sales in both categories fell by 10%.

Author Solutions Explores Sale

Self-publishing giant Author Solutions Inc. is exploring its strategic options, including the possible sale of the company. ASI had its best year ever in 2011, with sales of $99.8 million and net income of $4.2 million.

Scholastic Launches Storia

Scholastic has begun beta tests for Storia, its proprietary e-book platform for selling and distributing its trade titles as well as digital editions of titles from other children’s houses. The beta test features 1,300 titles, with the vast majority published by Scholastic. Deborah Forte, executive v-p and president of Scholastic Media, said she expects Storia to have about 2,000 titles when it makes its official debut in the fall. Scholastic is promoting Storia to teachers and parents and has designed the app to appeal to two different age groups.

ALA Asks RH to Scale Back Price Hikes

The American Library Association issued a statement urging Random House to reconsider its recent hike in the price of e-books to the library market. While ALA president Molly Raphael praised Random House’s “engagement with libraries,” she urged Random House to scale back the price increase. “I am deeply disappointed in the severe escalation in e-book pricing,” Raphael said. In response, Stuart Applebaum, spokesman for Random House, said the publisher welcomes “continuing discussions” on the publisher’s library pricing policy.

Smashwords And PayPal In Censorship Fight

Smashwords is continuing to talk with PayPal following the payment processor’s demand that Smashwords remove all titles containing bestiality, rape, and incest. Smashwords has been given an indication from PayPal that enforcement could be relaxed, and the two sides have been in talks ever since. A number of privacy rights organizations including the ABFFE and the AAP have signed a letter called “Tell PayPal: Don’t Censor Books,” voicing their opinion that financial services providers should be neutral in lawful online speech matters.

OverDrive Acquires Booki.sh

OverDrive has acquired the Australian company Booki.sh, which sells and distributes e-books through its cloud-based distribution platform. The three founders of Booki.sh—Joseph Pearson, Virginia Murdoch, and Peter Haasz—will remain in Melbourne and continue to operate the company.

McEvoy Group Buys GMG

The McEvoy Group, whose book properties include Chronicle Books, Princeton Architectural Press, and becker&mayer!, has acquired GMG Publishing Corp., a New York-based international publisher of fine art stationery and paper gifts, from its owner and founder, Gerald Gailson. GMG holdings include Mudpuppy Press.

Taeckens Joining Graywolf

Michael Taeckens, Algonquin Books’ online and paperback marketing director, is leaving the Chapel Hill, N.C. press as of March 28 to assume the responsibilities of marketing director at Graywolf Press in Minneapolis, beginning April 16.