A Guide to Spending Your E-Book Antitrust Loot on Amazon

Do you own a Kindle? If so, check your e-mail inbox because there’s a good chance you’ve received a nice, little present from Amazon.com. If you bought an e-book from certain publishers—Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan, or HarperCollins—from April 1, 2010, to May 21, 2012, you will be getting money back from the settlement of a price-fixing suit brought by the federal government against the publishers. (The government also sued Apple, which hasn’t settled.) A book from the New York Times bestseller list pays back $3.17, and other titles will return $0.73 to the buyer—unless you live in Minnesota, where you’ll get $3.93 or $0.94, respectively.

The only catch—of course, there’s a catch—is that you can use the Amazon credit only to buy print books or e-books. I got $2.19, which is exactly the price of Mystical Mandala Coloring Book. It’s not much, but the text is in stock and should arrive in two days.

That’s better than my colleague Eric Roston fared; he apparently reads very little and got the $0.73 minimum. Not much available down there, apart from free e-books that include a huge selection of public domain literature and fan fiction. Were he able to spend the money elsewhere, he could have, gratis, the Spears 435 Series PVC Pipe Fitting, eligible for Amazon Prime.

A few other Bloombergers did significantly better. Brad Stone got $12.66, which doesn’t even cover his own book on Amazon, The Everything Store. (Cheapest edition: $14.99 for the e-book.) Stone does have enough credit for a copy of Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England’s Stone Walls. Josh Brustein got $15.83, which would get him Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Tunes into TV. Ellen Pollock can take her $9.01 and choose one paperback volume of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

Doing a quick scan of Twitter, it’s easy to find much bigger hauls.

That’s noted New York Times reporter and author of The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust, who obviously goes through a lot of Kindle and doesn’t mind humble-bragging about it. Her $162 credit could nab 13 “bargain price” hardcover copies of her book, with $6 left over. Or she could buy a copy of Psychology: Ninth Edition in Modules, which has an impressive shipping weight of 4.9 lbs.

Much of the Twittersphere seems to share Henriques’s surprised delight. A notable exception is, naturally, a dismal scientist.

That’s plenty for the George Mason University professor and polymathic econo-blogger to get a copy of the adorable children’s board book, I’m Not Sleepy!, plus a one-year rental of Paul Krugman’s Essentials of Economics. Actually, Cowen would be $0.01 short in aggregate. But just think of that penny’s marginal benefit.

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