Thursday, April 12, 2012

Why the DOJ, Amazon, and Congress Need to Fight in the Hunger Games

Okay. So maybe we need to throw in the states Attorneys General.  With the twist that no one comes out of the arena alive.

Here's why this latest firestorm (or any other kind of storm you want to call it) scares me:

I don't purport to know every nuance and detail about this whole mess.  But this seems to sum it up pretty well.

Well, and this:

And this:

I'm sure there will be a lot of posts on this from literary agents, editors, and other publishing professionals/insiders in the coming days.  I'm looking forward to seeing the different takes on it and I will eventually actually sit down and read the anti-trust filing.  It's certain to appear in Publisher's Weekly and/or Shelf Awareness sometime soon.  They'll shed some good light on the scenario.  Meanwhile, you might want to check out some articles on C|Net:

DOJ Announces 3 E-book Settlements...But not With Apple by Declan McCullagh
Why E-books Cost So Much by Nathan Bransford
What's the Future of E-book Pricing? by David Carnoy

If you have a link to a good article about it, please share it in the comments.  I may add to this list throughout the coming days and weeks.  This is a very important issue and one which seems likely to have more impact on debut and mid-list authors than on the big names or any celebrities who might go publish a book as a whim.

Editing to add in some more tweets from the publishing world.

This is what I mean by having more impact on debut and mid-list authors. Those authors whose next book sale relies heavily on consumer sales of existing books.

Edit: This morning Twitter was again ablaze with this news.  I have a couple more links for you all, links which I will be reading through today myself.

A Few Things Become Clearer in the Settlement from Publisher's Weekly
This is the link in the tweet to the left, I believe.

Everything You Need to Know About the E-Book DOJ Lawsuit in One Post This one is updated frequently.

Editing to add: Here's a link to Writer Beware Blogs' Overview of the Lawsuit

So, what really really scares me in all this is the devaluation of creation.  I think it's time we send all these government goons into the arena with naught but a few swords and ninja stars.

And this is what I mean by devaluation of creation:

I spend my days educating the people around me through casual conversations about the life of a writer.  They're always surprised at how long it takes to write a book, how slow the publishing process is, and just how difficult an industry it is to break into as a debut author.

A book can be just as immersive and powerful an experience as a movie, yet we no longer value them the same? That seems incredibly backward to me.


  1. I'm sorry, but people are really being incredibly irrational about this. The publishers and Apple have almost certainly engaged in illegal activity that is dangerous to free enterprise. They are PRICE FIXING. And they should be supported? There hasn't been any meaningful competition in the publishing industry for decades. The big publishers have been operating as a cartel. They are finally given competition (Amazon) and taken to task for their behavior which was what created the crippled and corrupted industry as we know it and we're supposed to side with them against the only player that actually gives writers and readers what they deserve? No, I don't think so.

    Furthermore, Jason Pinter's tweet is illogical. If Stephen King and a debut writer's novels are both actually priced affordably, READERS WILL BE MORE LIKELY TO BUY BOTH. Book selling isn't a zero sum game. People buy more books when they are cheaper. If Stephen King's book is $20 and a debut author's book is $20, then people are more likely to go with the sure thing, the author they already know and trust. If the books are $9, the reader will be more willing to take a chance on an unknown author and buy both.

  2. I just came from Ishta Mercurio's post about this. I commented there: Remember when paperbacks were like $5 and that was a reasonable price? Now it's either 99 cents or $25 bucks (or more!). We're in a world of extremes. Very volatile.

  3. I spent some time today reading details about the DOJ's actions and what's involved. From what I understand, the issue revolves around Price Fixing, an illegal practice that frosts me, regardless of what's being sold. One publisher has already agreed to pay a fine. I don't understand why the DOJ is the Bad Guy when the paying public and debut authors have the most to gain from the investigation.

  4. First of all: Sarah, educate yourself. This is about the ebook business, not traditional paper books. Amazon came first in that market, and are setting themselves up as a monopoly. That's what's illegal, not others in the industry choosing to give Amazon competition. Amazon couldn't care less about writers or readers, as long as they make a profit.

    Secondly, Stephanie, great collections of thoughts on this! I read somewhere this morning that three of the Big Six are refusing to renew their contracts with Amazon, which is great news. My hope is that the others will follow suit, and that Amazon's ebook business will be crippled by the very free market they sought to exploit.

    I'm interested to see how this lawsuit transpires, because Apple is refusing to settle, and they certainly have the cash on hand to follow a court battle out to it's conclusion. Perhaps someone will write a good book about this when it's all over...and refuse to sell it on Amazon.


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