If you love e-books, you will be glad to hear that the price of e-books has started to plummet. This is because of happenings at an unlikely source, the United States Justice Department. You will want to read on to learn about this.

You may have heard that the Justice Department filed suit against five major book publishers and Apple last April. The suit accused these entities of working in collusion to raise the cost of e-books. This comes from a policy that publishers adopted in 2010 when they struck a deal with Apple to allow the publishers, and not the retailers, to set prices of e-books. Of course, this became the norm for other retailers like Amazon. Before that time, Amazon was setting low prices on current best-sellers to grab customers. It was sort of a loss-leader program like grocery stores that entice people to come in with a low advertised price on a popular item like milk or bread.

Well, to make a long story short, this week Denise L. Cote, the federal district judge in Manhattan who is overseeing the case, approved a settlement between the Justice Department and three of the country's largest publishers, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers and Simon & Schuster.  Although the suite is still ongoing with Pearson, Macmillan, and Apple, this settlement will allow the pricing to return to the days when retailers set the prices of e-books. This could happen quite quickly as the settlement will allow current agreements to be canceled within 30 days.

Although this settlement is poised to throw the entire publishing world into turmoil, it is a big win for Amazon, whose low prices set off this whole configuration in the first place. It is also a big win for consumers who have over the course of the past few years paid tens of millions of dollars more for ebooks than they otherwise would have.

I recently tried to purchase an e-book. The price was $12.99. The same book in paperback was only $9.00, so I purchased the paperback. I realize that with e-books, there are still authors and publishers to be paid, but with no printing costs and lower distribution costs, it is illogical to think that a printed book should be cheaper than a digital copy of the same book. Oh, and I won’t even get into the fact that digital books are licensed, not sold, so you are not even really buying a book, you are simply buying the right to read that book.

 Publishers and companies like Apple are simply used to having large profit margins and will do everything they can maintain those margins. Yet, when technology moves the world ahead, being stuck on old methodology does not always work. A good example of this is Kodak. Did you know that Kodak was actually the first to develop the digital camera? Yet, they didn’t make the move to digital technology in a timely manner because they didn’t want to sabotage their extremely lucrative film business.

There is no doubt that the publishing industry must change to meet the new digital world. Amazon will be a big winner in this and hopefully the publishers and book retailers will be adaptable enough to find a way to compete with Amazon. If that happens, the consumer will be a big winner.

NOTE: The changes are coming quickly. This week I found an e-book at both Amazon and iTunes for $9.99. Last week that same book was $17.99.