How To Understand the DoJ’s E-Book Pricing Settlement
September 11, 2012 | 12:43 am
By Dan Eldridge
It’s been my experience that avid readers tend to be the sorts of people who take great pride in their intelligence. And intelligent people, for reasons that are obvious enough, aren’t always forthcoming when they encounter complicated subjects they don’t entirely understand. I mention this because I suspect that a decent portion of the e-reading community is having a hard time wrapping its collective head around the now-approved e-book pricing settlement situation.
And that’s a shame, because this particular case offers anyone who’s interested a fantastic opportunity to observe the process of free-market capitalism in all its exquisite absurdity.
I’ll be the first to admit that all the unsaid implications and random exceptions in this case have my head spinning. I’ve probably read thousands of words related to the case, and I still have questions; I can’t imagine I’m the only one. For instance:
Why did the DoJ choose to go after this particular instance of price-fixing? Exactly how and why were they tipped off? Did the State Department’s RFP for e-readers have anything to do with the genesis of this case, or is that merely conspiracy-theory talk? And what of the anti-loss leader “commitment” clause that was tacked onto the settlement? It certainly seems fair, but how, exactly, will such a commitment be enforced? And what of the 868 public comments submitted on the agreement, and the fact that a whopping 90 percent of them opposed it? That fact alone makes it a little tough to have confidence in Judge Cote, does it not?
Anyway, you get the idea: Thus far, it almost feels as if this case has raised more questions than it’s answered. In the meantime, the wisest thing we can probably all do is to continue doing the one thing we all do best: reading. It’s with that philosophy in mind that I offer the following selection of articles and blog posts about the case; these are a few that made the situation seem at least a small bit less confusing to me:
E-Books Pricing Settlement Approved
This Wall Street Journal write-up is probably the best general-info article I’ve read so far about the settlement, its implications, and the actions that led up to it.
Judge Approves E-Book Pricing Settlement Between Government and Publishers
This piece from the New York Times’ Media Decoder blog gives a good overview of the settlement, and even the case itself. Read this if you’re somewhat familiar with the case, but not up-to-date on all the latest specifics.
Federal Judge Approves Settlement in DoJ E-Book Case
This Publishers Weekly piece goes into much more depth than the aforementioned WSJ and NYT articles, but does a great job of explaining a complicated situation in relatively easy-to-understand language. Recommended!
Hats Off to Amazon
Publishing legend Mike Shatzkin definitely isn’t afraid to share his opinions about the case on his well-trafficked blog. And that’s probably because he’s almost always right. (Fun fact: Shatzkin is a featured character in Vanity Fair’s How a Book is Born: The Making of The Art of Fielding, a Kindle Single you should absolutely read if you’re truly interested in the publishing industry.)
What the DoJ settlement means for ebook prices now
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: Paid Content reporter Laura Hazard Owen is one of the very best journalists working the e-reading beat today. This piece explains the various implications of the settlement, financial and otherwise.
That was fast: Amazon is already discounting settling publishers’ ebooks
Another Hazard Owen item, this piece can be considered a follow-up of sorts to the LHO post I’ve linked to directly above. The short version: Amazon isn’t wasting any time at all in its quest to become the world’s first e-book monopolist.