Is anyone still paying attention to the DOJ/ebook antitrust case?
May 18, 2013 | 12:47 pm
By Brian Howard
I guess I’d forgotten. Now that all the the publishing players have settled, abandoning agency pricing and returning to the wholesale slums, the DOJ/e-book antitrust case, which popped up again in everyone’s news feeds this week, feels a little anticlimactic.
The DOJ, perhaps simply because it’s what it found, or perhaps because there’s no one left to pick on, is framing the last defendant standing, Apple, as the “ringmaster” in the price-fixing suit, according the New York Times.
With the case set to go to trial June 3 in New York (and what a fine note on which to end BEA), I find myself wondering: At this point, to what end? If Apple was, indeed, in the wrong and rounded up a posse of five Big-6 publishers to crank up pricing and stick it to Amazon, then justice must be done. But with the publisher defendants all settling, the rest seems sort of academic. If Apple loses, it could be on the line for big fines and damages, but beyond that, e-book prices have already dropped substantially in the wake of the publisher settlements. If it wins, however, what of the settlements the publishers reached? Apple claims that its bargained-for contracts with the publishers couldn’t be reinstated after “prevailing in court.” Which sounds like the best Apple can hope for is winning, which would be a hollow, expensive victory.
Other than determining Apple’s role in this, is there anything you’re hoping to get out of the looming dog-and-pony show?
* This article originally appeared on the website of Book Business magazine, a TeleRead sister publication.