The jury is still out. While the Justice Department is weighing the past, present and future course of the publishing industry (in trying to tame the nefarious price-setting practices of e-books — and by extension of all books), opinionated speculation is running rampant!
This digital-era-caused publishing shipwreck upon ‘conscience island’ could just be the best thing that has ever been visited upon the publishing empire.
Why ? Because the forced dealing with recent ethical questions like price-setting below profitable margins just to run peripherals out of business and create a more monopolistic advantage, will hopefully lead to a clearing up of abuses and unethical practices that existed under the old traditional publishing business model as well!
But, in order for this to take place, the DOJ must put it’s best foot forward with a real commitment to create a publishing landscape that fosters open and fair competition. Good prices for all concerned will then follow — based on fair market value — not cookie-cutter, one-price-fits-all, dip-shit prices (that will be raised, without any recourse, in the future when the true monopoly is firmly established).
Scott Turow: Apple didn’t collude, it offered an e-books life raft
Last week shivers shot through the world of publishing when news broke that the U.S. Justice Department warned Apple and five major publishers that it was investigating them for alleged collusion, the Wall Street Journal reported. At issue was the price of e-books: When Apple launched the iPad, five major publishers adjusted their pricing schemes from a wholesale/retail model to an agency model.
In December, Justice Department official Sharis A. Pozen told a House subcommittee that the antitrust division was investigating e-book pricing. A source told the New York Times that the department hopes to decide by the end of April, when Pozen is leaving, whether to file suit against Apple and publishers Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, HarperCollins and Macmillan.
That would be a mistake, writes Scott Turow, a bestselling author, a lawyer, and head of the Authors Guild. In an update on the Authors Guild website, he writes:
We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing. We do know that collusion wasn’t necessary: Given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple’s offer and clung to it like a life raft. Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.
Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers. Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss. This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon’s predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon’s deep pockets.