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elbanditoroso's avatar

Authors versus publishers versus Apple versus customers. Who wins and who loses?

Asked by elbanditoroso (13712 points ) March 11th, 2012

This is turning out to be interesting. The US Dept of Justice is looking into price fixing by Apple and others with regards to ebooks. (It’s about time!!!).

Now the Authors Guild (representing, duh, book authors) is weighing in, in favor of the Apple price-fixing model, which raises prices and profits for the authors and Apple, but causes us (the consumers) to end up paying more for each ebook.

I have some sympathy for the authors, and as a consumer I would like for ebook prices to be lower. I have no sympathy or support to Apple.

What’s fair here, and how do you see it ending?

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4 Answers

funkdaddy's avatar

I’m not sure what the evidence for price fixing would look like in this case.

I think it’s unlikely that Apple is working with Amazon or other ebook publishers to figure out their pricing in any way beyond looking at what they offer.

It seems more likely the publishers are giving Apple (and Amazon) a price they can sell their works at, or they’ll pull permissions for the digital formats and we’ll be left with a limited catalog. I don’t see how this is different than digital distribution for music or movies where the publishers have the last say in pricing and held out until it was obvious people weren’t going to go back to purchasing CDs like they used to.

So I’m not sure what to think about the government’s case.

As for how it will all end, I think we’ll end up close to where we are with the news business. Traditional publishing will struggle to find a way to make the same kind of a money when the medium is cheaper, available to anyone, and less reliant on press to get the word out. Authors don’t need publishers like they used to and if the publishers can’t negotiate pricing for them their value diminishes further.

The smart ones will work out ways to add value to the new digital formats instead of just turning over the same text files and expecting the same price as a printed hardcover. (Movies extended how long people buy DVDs by including features and content you couldn’t include in a theater experience)

gorillapaws's avatar

I think this is a ridiculous waste of the Justice Department’s resources. Apple approved the “agency model” of e-book distribution (i.e. publishers charge what they want to for each individual book and people will buy them or not). Now if publishers are all colluding and price-fixing, that would be a problem, but Apple taking a slice for selling their content through it’s store and managing payment isn’t all that different from a retailer doing the same.

I feel like the Justice Department has much better things to do with it’s time, such as investigating the companies behind SOPA and other abominations.

missingbite's avatar

The Justice Department is doing what EVERY lawsuit does. Goes after the one with the most to lose and the most money. Just like an ambulance chaser sues everyone from the driver of the car to the car maker when someone has a crash. It’s ridiculous.

Apple is a very high profile company right now and the Justice Department targeting them because it wouldn’t be all over the news if they were suing just the publishers. Outside of academia, very few people would even recognize the names of the publishers but everyone knows Apple.

whitecarnations's avatar

How could one not support Apple in this case? They are one of the major carriers for anything eBook related. Without them, there would be a large void in “authors” getting their story across. This is a business. It’s all fairly new, just like when publishers figured out they could sell books to the general public. I’m sure this isn’t even on the level of gas price gouges across the nation. That, they should look into. That’s the number consumer product not related to food.

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