It looks like the end is finally here. Nine years ago, Apple and Amazon were embroiled in a giant lawsuit over e-books. The net result was that Apple wound up having to fund a $400 million settlement, paid to the benefit of some Amazon customers.

I'll go through the background of all this below, but the short version is that if you simply click here, you might learn that you've got some free Amazon credits that you forgot about, or maybe never even knew about to begin with.

These credits actually represent a second round of payments, which Amazon allocated in October 2017 to customers who had already redeemed credits from the first round of payments. (Those expired last year.) When I checked last night, after Amazon sent a reminder email, I found that I had $5.34.

The important kicker to this is that all the credits apparently expire at 11:59 p.m. Hawaii time on Friday, April 20, 2018. Why Hawaii time? I can only guess, but that's about 27 hours from the time this article is going live. (If you're reading after that, sorry!) 

Reading closely, it seems that you could potentially also have used your credits without even realizing you had them--Amazon could have just applied them as a credit to almost any purchase you made since last October. That's why I strongly suggest checking if there's another email address you might have used with Amazon in years gone by, where you might have credits but haven't made a recent purchase.

Ironically, even though I've written about this settlement several times over the last few years, that's exactly what happened to me. I kept forgetting to check my old email, or to log in with Amazon to spend those last few dollars; originally, I had a total of $39.63.

The lawsuits

This all goes back to 2009. Amazon's Kindle had 90 percent of the e-book market, and the late Steve Jobs was trying to launch the iPad. Amazon was selling e-books for $9.99 as a loss leader across the board, and so Apple worked out a deal with top publishers to sell e-books at a greater profit on Apple's platform, on the condition that they not sell anywhere else--like say, Amazon--for less.

As a result, e-book prices on Amazon rose from $9.99 to as high as $12.99 or even $14.99.

Then, the U.S. Department of Justice and several state attorneys general got involved. It took years, but they ultimately worked out what I think was a fantastic settlement from Amazon's perspective. Namely, Apple had to fund $400 million for Amazon customers--but pay it to them in the form of Amazon credits.

The rules were simple, originally: You'd get $6.93 for any New York Times bestseller e-book from one of five big publishers that you bought between April 2010 and May 2012, and $1.57 for any other e-book. You could use the credit to buy anything on Amazon, not just other e-books.

The allocation seems different now, but one thing hasn't changed: It's only open to people who bought e-books from Amazon in the U.S.

The final hours

That's about what you need to know. You can't use the credits to buy other gift cards or subscriptions, but otherwise you can use them for almost anything else on Amazon. You also don't have to do anything to redeem the credits if you do have them.

"As long as you have credit remaining, we will automatically apply it to your purchase of qualifying items through Amazon.com, an Amazon device or an Amazon app," the information page at www.amazon.com/applebooksettlement says. "The credit applied to your purchase will appear in your order summary as a gift card during checkout and in your account history."

After this, I think we're done; I don't see anything else currently suggesting there will be yet another round of allocations. I also don't think the numbers are going to be as big here as they were a year ago when I wrote about this, in terms of dollars and the sheer number of people who wind up with good news.

That's because in order to have credits now, you had to have received them in an earlier round and spent them. Still, it only takes a few seconds to check. Here's the link again. Let us know in the comments if you found a nice surprise.

Published on: Apr 20, 2018
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