In the September 2012 issue of Writer's Chronicle magazine, Ronald Goldfarb updates us on the lawsuits the U.S. Justice Department has taken against five major publishers and Apple for price fixing on e-books.
Three of the five have settled with the government and the other two, Penguin and MacMillan (and Apple, of course), are staying the course, i.e., they're refusing to admit to price fixing. In fact, they're bringing book giant Amazon.com into the fray, saying that Amazon's ability to twist arms in order to lower book prices has effectively given Amazon a monopoly over book selling. The natural fear, then, is that once Amazon has effective control over book selling and pricing, they will raise the price of all books, print and digital, to ever-higher levels.
But why, in this accusation, would Amazon want to control book sales and prices? To sell their e-book readers, which are pretty worthless without e-books. And then to muddy the waters even more, there's this from Goldfarb:
"To complicate the charges and counter-charges over the Department of Justice’s anti-trust case and Amazon’s role in electronic publishing, a publishing trade report (Publisher’s Lunch) noted that the U.S. State Department is negotiating a no-bid multi-million dollar contract with Amazon to purchase thousands of e-readers loaded with content at a bulk discount."
So what's the upshot of this? The DOJ must decide whether the publishers are restricting competition or whether the culprit is Amazon. Oddly, Scott Turow and The Author's Guild are siding with the publishers, rationalizing that having the publishers in control will ultimately benefit writers.
My opinion: clearly all sides admit that e-books are here to stay. But should writers trust the big publishers and Apple, or should they trust Amazon?
One thing we should all be aware of is that this is all about book sales. There's little implied here that would benefit the development of writers and the building of a writer's platform. Still, with the big pub houses doing so little for the beginning or midlist writer these days, I'd have to grind my teeth and go with Amazon. They, after all, do offer the sort of services that benefit beginning and developing writers.
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Native American culture. Education. Creative writing.