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Four of the major publishers – Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and the Hachette Book Group – and Apple have agreed to pacify Eurocrats by changing their electronic book terms. The offer, discussed here back in September, was formally accepted yesterday.

The agreement prohibits conditions introduced by publishers in their deals with Apple to maintain their margins. The four publishers will suspend "most favoured nation" conditions for five years and allow other retailers - ie, continent-gobbling tat store Amazon - to discount ebooks.

Pearson's Penguin, which is merging with Bertelsmann's Random House, won't have anything to do with it. Neither Penguin nor Macmillan - which has been feisty with Amazon to the extent of pulling its wares from the retailer - are settling with a parallel action in the US initiated by the Department of Justice.

Critics of the deal argue that short-term benefits to the consumer come at the cost of long-term benefits to the supply industry - the publishers themselves. ®

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