When you receive emails saying you've won or received money, you should assume they're scams. People don't give money away for no reason. Except for this week! If you received an email about an Amazon credit being applied to your account because of an antitrust settlement, go ahead and get excited, because for once it's not a malicious hacker out to trick you. It's real money!
In 2012 state attorneys general led a class action lawsuit against the five largest book publishers in the U.S. for e-book price-fixing. In a related case, they sued Apple for conspiring with the publishers. And though Apple is still contesting its involvement in court, the publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin) settled with regulators. Now Amazon is beginning to distribute the settlement. The company prominently notes, though, that "Amazon is not a party to these lawsuits." Meaning Amazon itself wasn't sued.
If you bought a Kindle book from any of the five publishers between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012, the credit will appear in your life automatically today, and will be eligible toward new book purchases (physical or Kindle) on Amazon from any publisher. You don't have to do anything to apply for or claim the credit. And if you're afraid you missed the email, you can check your credit balance here.
Your credit is calculated based on how many relevant Kindle books you bought within the date range and whether those were New York Times best-sellers or not. (You'll get slightly more per Kindle book if you are a resident of Minnesota, because the attorney general of Minnesota filed her own suit; there is more detailed information about the settlement provided by the coalition of attorneys general that brought the suit.)
One Slate staffer woke up to $19.96 in her inbox this morning. It's not exactly a Publishers Clearing House–sized check, but it's way better than a phishing scam.