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Who wins and loses from DoJ's suit against Big Publishers and Apple?

April 15, 2012

Tags: DOJ, book publishing, Amazon, agency pricing, loss-leader discounting

Here's a roundup (with links) of stories and analysis about the Department of Justice's plan to sue five major publishers and Apple for colluding to raise the prices of electronic books (eBooks). Three publishers have agreed to settle. On his blog, After the DoJ action, where do we stand?, Mike Shatzkin, whom I read for the big picture (publishers' view), tentatively summarizes the situation thus: "Amazon (which includes any other player largely dependent on Amazon) and the most price-conscious ebook consumers have won. Everybody else in the ecosystem: authors, publishers, and other vendors, have lost. The reaction from all quarters seems to confirm that analysis." (Shatzkin Files, 4-14-12). Do take time to read the comments on all these pieces. Many believe this major shift in book publishing is as big in its way as Gutenberg was, when he brought printing to the world.

Three of the Big Six publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster) have agreed to a settlement with Justice. Two (Macmillan and Penguin) will contest the DoJ position that they acted illegally. Random House did not participate in the meetings that led to the complaint of collusion.

• Here you can read the Department of Justice complaint (PDF), in its in its antitrust lawsuit filed against Apple and the Agency Five.

In Shatzkin's earlier piece, If the government makes agency go away, he explains: "Agency pricing, for those who have not been following the most important development in the growth of the book market, enabled the publishers to enforce a uniform price for each ebook title across all retail outlets. This was Apple’s desired way to do business, and it addressed deep concerns the big publishers had about the effect of Amazon’s loss-leader discounting."

• In an earlier story -- U.S. Warns Apple, Publishers ( WSJ, 3-9-12) -- reporters Thomas Catan and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg explain: "The case centers on Apple's move to change the way that publishers charged for e-books as it prepared to introduce its first iPad in early 2010. Traditionally, publishers sold books to retailers for roughly half of the recommended cover price. Under that "wholesale model," booksellers were then free to offer those books to customers for less than the cover price if they wished. Most physical books are sold using this model.

"To build its early lead in e-books, Amazon Inc. sold many new best sellers at $9.99 to encourage consumers to buy its Kindle electronic readers. But publishers deeply disliked the strategy, fearing consumers would grow accustomed to inexpensive e-books and limit publishers' ability to sell pricier titles." By acting together to raise prices across the industry, says DoJ, the publishers and Apple are violating U.S. antitrust laws.

• According to Michael Cader (Publishers Lunch 3-8-12), in Justice Department Said to Threaten Suit Over Agency eBook Pricing, "Google Play's new promotion offering a different ebook every day for 25 cents is doing wonders for Amazon." Much of Cader's analysis is behind a paywall; you need a subscription to read everything he has written.

Amazon, the 800-pound gorilla in this competition, can afford to match loss-leader offers from competitors like Google. Publishers can't afford that kind of deep discount and have never been strong on the kind of marketing Amazon excels in. Authors (who earn a fraction of what publishers earn on a title) stand to lose a lot, too -- except those few who are successfully self-publishing eBooks (especially genre fiction) through Kindle.

• On April 12, Kelly Burdick (Melville House) posted The Collusion Files: How it really happened, showing emails DoJ had between Steve Jobs and the Agency Five publishers, about meeting for lunch to discuss the $9.99 problem.

• Authors Guild president Scott Turow weighed in with Grim News (3-9-12): "The irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition." The Guild is concerned chiefly with Amazon's "chokehold on the e-book market," fearing that traditional (legacy) "publishers won’t risk capital where there’s no reasonable prospect for reward." Turow defends book publishing against Amazon, which he sees as a threat to our rich literary culture.

• Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler, who have made a killing in the eBook wars self-publishing their own fiction, support Amazon and take on Scott Turow in their piece, Barry, Joe, & Scott Turow (A Newbie's Guide to Publishing 3-10-12). Says Barry: "Scott argues that what’s central to a 'rich literary culture' isn’t books, but rather legacy publishers and brick-and-mortar stores. If this isn’t a sentimental concern, I don’t know what is....Books (that is, literature) are what’s central to a rich literary culture. Not who sells them. Not how they’re sold." Mind you, they have succeeded in self-publishing genre fiction as eBooks. Authors in other genres have not achieved a similar success, by and large.

Further down (after the two apply their BS-detectors to Scott Turow's defense of "legacy publishers"), Barry writes: "the legacy publishing industry is sick, and when someone is sick, you don’t want him to die; you want him to get better. But I think it bears mentioning that if Amazon weren’t aggressively innovating, none of the players Scott salutes would be moving at all, or at least not nearly as fast. Competition is good. Amazon is causing it, and it’s nice to see other players reacting, if only as resentful and reluctant catch-up." Not to mention that although the legacy publishers are fighting for their share of the market, they are reluctant to up the authors' share. (So would Amazon be, without pressure from competition.)

Essentially these two and Suzanne White see the Guild as defending publishers, not authors. "Where in the traditional publishing industry can an author command 70%? Where can an author have utter dominion over cover art? Formatting? Content? Illustrations? Impact? Marketing? The answer is Amazon. And a little bit Pubit and sometimes Smashwords or Apple as well. Where in the standard publishing industry can an author revive a book that he or she wrote in 1982, sold to a publisher who printed it, didn't sell very many and took it right off the market? Amazon, that's where. Author gets rights back, re-formats the book, slams it up for sale on Kindle and in six months is making money with that book."

That a lot of the self-published books could have used better writing and editing is another point, and a lot of garbage is crossing the eWaves. But publishers as gatekeepers and quality assurance people are clearly not giving the authors who do write well a fair share of the pie and they are certainly not giving old, obscure, highly specialized backlist titles the support the authors themselves can give, without the publishers. The question is, if the publishers disappeared, would Amazon be so generous to authors? Highly unlikely.

• Here's "legacy" novelist Richard Russo (Amazon’s Jungle Logic (NY Times, Op Ed, 12-12-11), with a roundup of opinions about Amazon's sales tactics from writers Stephen King, Dennis Lehane, Andre Dubus III, Anita Shreve, Tom Perrotta and Ann Patchett. Lehane called Amazon's price-check app attack on bookstore sales "scorched-earth capitalism." Russo writes: "Though it’s under siege, such real-life literary culture exists in unexpected places. A few miles down the road from where I live on the coast of Maine, a talented young bookseller named Lacy Simons recently opened a small bookshop called Hello Hello, and in her blog she wrote eloquently about her relationship to 'everyone who comes in my store. If you let me, I’ll get to know you through your reading life and strive to find books that resonate with you. Amazon asks you to take advantage of my knowledge & my education (which I’m still paying for) and treat the space I rent, the heat & light I pay for, the insurance policies I need to be here, the sales tax I gather for the state, the gathering place I offer, the books and book culture I believe in so much that I’ve wagered everything on it' as if it were 'a showroom for goods you can just get more cheaply through them.' "

• And here, for now, is Dear Consumers Who Apparently Think the Current Drama Surrounding eBooks is Like a Football Game (John Scalzi, 4-15-12). Scalzi urges us, as writers and as customers, not to give in to binary thinking ("us vs. them"). "Amazon wants you to stay in their electronic ecosystem for buying ebooks (and music, and movies, and apps and games). So does Apple, Barnes & Noble and Google. None of them are interested in sharing you with anyone else, ever. Publishers, alternately, are interested in having as many online retailers as possible, each doing business with them on terms as advantageous to the publishers as possible. All of them will work for their own ends to achieve their goals. Sometimes, their corporate goals will work in your immediate personal interest. Sometimes they will not....Recognize that they love you for your money."

• Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware presents an excellent overview of what has happened, in The DOJ’s Ebook Price Fixing Lawsuit Against Apple and the "Agency Five": An Overview. She quotes Mike Shatzkin on what may happen in the long term: "Over time, the biggest losers here will be the authors. The independent authors will feel the pain first. Agency pricing creates a zone of pricing they can occupy without much competition from branded merchandise. When the known authors are only available at $9.99 and up, the fledgling at $0.99-$2.99 looks very attractive and worth a try. Ending agency will have the “desired” effect of bringing all ebook prices down. As the big book prices are reduced, the ability of the unknowns to use price as a discovery tool will diminish as well. In the short run, it will be the independent authors who will pay the biggest price of all." (from Shatzkin's If the government makes agency go away)

As I find more stories on this topic, I will add links to them -- or you may suggest them in the Comments section below.


  1. April 16, 2012 2:01 AM EDT
    Here's another thoughtful piece: • Ebooks and Antitrust (Ryan Chittum, Columbia Journalism Review 4-11-12). Chittum writes: "While this may look like price-fixing, and the DOJ has some damning-looking meetings and timelines (that Penguin’s CEO says contain 'material misstatements and omissions'), it’s ultimately about companies being forced to do what the government wouldn’t do: Take on a monopolistic competitor that abused its market power to dictate how they do business." and "The Justice Department sues for antitrust violations. But whom does it sue? The companies fighting the monopoly, naturally."
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  2. April 17, 2012 11:51 AM EDT
    Daring to Cut Off Amazon (David Streitfeld, NY Times, 4-15-12). "Plenty of people are upset at Amazon these days, but it took a small publishing company whose best-known volume is a toilet-training tome to give the mighty Internet store the boot. The Educational Development Corporation, saying it was fed up with Amazon’s scorched-earth tactics, announced at the end of February that it would remove all its titles from the retailer’s virtual shelves.... 'Amazon is squeezing everyone out of business,' said Randall White, EDC’s chief executive. 'I don’t like that. They’re a predator. We’re better off without them.'...Mr. White’s bold move to take his 1,800 children’s books away from the greatest retailing success of the Internet era is more evidence of the extraordinary tumult within the book world over one simple question: who gets to decide how much a book costs?"

    *********************************************************************** Amazon’s $1 million secret (Alexander Zaitchik, Salon.com, 4-8-12). "Yes, much of the literary world is in full-throated revolt against Amazon’s dominance — bookstores fear Amazon will push them out of business, authors worry about deep discounting, and the Department of Justice is considering the major publishers’ challenge over the price of e-books....By quietly supporting small presses and literary nonprofits, is Amazon backing book culture or buying off critics?"..."The pillars of Amazon hatred — recently recapped by the Authors Guild’s Scott Turow on Salon — are arranged like this. Critics allege that the Seattle-based company, led by Jeff Bezos, its ex-Wall Street CEO, engages in predatory pricing. They claim that Amazon bullies small publishers into signing price and promotional contracts that threaten their already slim margins, and doesn’t hesitate to unplug the “Buy” buttons of those who resist. While the company claims a foundational book-loving ethos, some suggest it wages total war against other institutions that sell books and embody book culture." On the same theme: Two US publishers turn backs on Amazon.com (The Bookseller, 4-11-12). "At least two of the big six publishers in the US are refusing to renew contracts with Amazon.com, with the giant internet retailer said to be downplaying the promotion of their titles as a result of the dispute."
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  3. April 17, 2012 12:01 PM EDT
    Complaints from Amazon employees: Inside Amazon's Warehouse (Spencer Soper, The Morning Call, 9-18-11). Amazon staff works in sweatshop conditions. Lehigh Valley workers tell of brutal heat, dizzying pace at online retailer. This story is followed up by Almost 13,000 boycott Amazon.com (Spencer Soper, The Morning Call, 12-22-11).
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  4. April 19, 2012 1:03 PM EDT
    Why Amazon may have killed the golden goose (Erik Sherman, CBS MoneyWatch, 4-18-12). "...Amazon is now in a difficult situation. Publishers have to cooperate if the retailer is going to succeed in its long-term strategy to gain more influence as a media player. However, the Big Six don't want to hand over that kind of power -- and they don't have to. For example, they could set relatively low discount levels on e-books, forcing Amazon to lose even more money in discounting than it already is (and Amazon is writing off a pretty penny on the Kindles it sells). Even with that level of resources, a company with investors that want a return can't keep losing money forever."
    - PM
  5. April 19, 2012 5:37 PM EDT
    Joe Brockmeier writes, in The DoJ's e-Book Attack Solves Nothing (ReadWriteWeb, 4-17-12): "The Department of Justice's (DoJ's) lawsuit against Apple and the major publishers over pricing may be a big win for Amazon, but is it really much of a win for Kindle owners? Ultimately, the suit may help Amazon shave a few bucks off of e-book prices, but it's doing nothing to address real problems consumers face with e-books." Read his comments on the problems of DRM ("digital rights management," increasingly re-named "digital restrictions management,"--translation: Lending books is now either impossible or very difficult); of eternal copyright (very little new material is coming into public domain); and Amazon's relationship with publishers (and not just the Big Six). "Time will tell whether the DoJ can prove that Apple, et al., actually colluded rather than arrived at the agency model independently. Meanwhile, it doesn't look like the government is addressing any real problems in the e-book market. Found this article through another: Publishing still has problems DoJ suit will not fix. You may also want to read What Amazon's ebook strategy means (Charlie Stross, Charlie's Diary, 4-14-12): "By foolishly insisting on DRM, and then selling to Amazon on a wholesale basis, the publishers handed Amazon a monopoly on their customers—and thereby empowered a predatory monopsony."
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  6. April 23, 2012 12:12 PM EDT
    Sunday Dialogue: Books in a Digital Age (NY Times, Sunday Review, 4-21-12). A lively and fascinating exchange of letters to the editors, responding on both sides of the argument, from which I quote briefly -- do read the whole discussion: MICHAEL FINE (Fine Creative Media): The book industry may be (correctly or incorrectly) chastised by a Justice Department that perceives wrongdoing under the law. But the primary issue remains: How will each publisher independently confront the existential threat posed by a single bookseller with such unprecedented power? How will each publisher protect the best interests of readers everywhere? ... Amazon’s ability to dictate prices — essentially sanctioned by the antitrust case — may save readers a buck or two in the short term. But it will deprive them of a world of literature in a decidedly dystopian future." RICHARD GRAYSON: "Literature has always survived, with or without the profit motive. The barriers to entry have fallen. When I self-publish one of my e-books on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program for 99 cents each and can have someone buy it and read it the next day, that is all the profit I need." RICHARD ALTSCHULER, president of a small publishing company: "If the largest publishers had to rely mainly on revenue from e-books at prices determined by the free market, they would be unable to support their existing operations. The issue is not, therefore, “cultural” at all, as Mr. Fine argues, but purely economic — an attempt by the “dinosaurs” of publishing to survive through price-fixing in a radically new publishing environment." Other sentiments: DON SHARPES: "Publishers, welcome to your new competition — authors who don’t need you anymore and customers escaping your inflated prices." Librarian ETHAN ANNIS: "In the past publishers acted as gatekeepers, sometimes rejecting great works. For example, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist John Kennedy Toole did not have a single novel published in his lifetime. Surely other great authors are unknown because they were never published. In contrast, any author can publish an e-book on Amazon. This has already led to a greater diversity of books." STEVE LANG: "The main thing that distinguishes the e-book market from other digital markets is that the dominant supplier of readers, Amazon, is using a proprietary format for the content....eventually, an open e-book standard will emerge, and then consumers will be able to buy an e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple or directly from the publisher, and read it on a Nook, an iPad or a Kindle." MICHAEL FINE: "Publishers don’t just print books, they develop them....The “radically new publishing environment” Mr. Altschuler cites is largely illusory. For the most part, the current e-book bonanza amounts to a one-time conversion of great titles from publishers’ backlists." As I said, do read the whole discussion, highlighting key issues in these eBook wars and mentioning some that haven't been covered much. One thing these discussions have made authors aware of is that, as an important part of the process that makes good books available to readers, they are for the most part probably not getting their fair share of income. (Pardon the long paragraph. This Authors Guild sitebuilder doesn't allow paragraph breaks in comments!)
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  7. April 23, 2012 2:07 PM EDT
    Antitrust Primer for the Publishing Price Fixing Lawsuit (Jane Little, Dear Author, 4-22-12). An excellent primer!
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  8. April 23, 2012 2:13 PM EDT
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  9. April 24, 2012 2:30 PM EDT
    Book Publishing’s Real Nemesis (David Carr, NY Times, 4-15-12). "The Justice Department finally took aim at the monopolistic monolith that threatened to dominate the book industry. So imagine the shock when the bullet aimed at threats to competition went whizzing by Amazon — which not long ago had a 90 percent stranglehold on e-books — and instead, struck five of the six biggest publishers and Apple, a minor player in the realm of books." An article full of insights and interesting comments from all angles. Do read this one (if you have not surpassed your limit of 10 free articles a month--if you are that type of person).
    - PM
  10. April 24, 2012 2:38 PM EDT
    Washington vs. Books (Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., Wall Street Journal, 4-13-12). "What about piracy, low barriers to entry and the fact that literature isn't chopped liver? Trustbusters lunge after "per se" claims because the alternative is the "rule of reason," in which they'd have to understand the market in question well enough to explain how a business's alleged misconduct was unreasonable ___________ The book industry is defending the very survivability of a book industry whose products are anything but uniform." __________________________________ "Justice calls it collusion. In reality, publishers have nothing to collude about, except maybe Clive Cussler's next advance. Books don't compete with each other. Nobody walks into a store and says, 'Toni Morrison looks expensive today. Give me some Stephen Hawking.'" _________________________________________________________ Interesting analysis, which may be behind a paywall for many readers.
    - PM
  11. April 24, 2012 2:46 PM EDT
    Things learned and thoughts provoked by London Book Fair 2012 (Mike Shatzkin's follow-up to earlier story, in which he issues a call to action: "...two companies, Macmillan and Penguin, who are carrying the fight for the whole industry. And that means more reason for the rest of us to try to help. I am working on my letter to DoJ now, and I’ll publish it in a future post. I hope all my readers who understand what’s at stake here will also write to Justice. __________________________________________________________ Address your letters to John Read, Chief Litigation III Section, Antitrust Division, U.S. Department of Justice, 450 5th Street, NW, Suite 4000, Washington, DC 20530
    - Pat McNees
  12. April 24, 2012 2:50 PM EDT
    _______________________________________________________________E-book overkill . Justice Dept. Trustbusters should've left Apple and book publishers alone. (Michael Shermer, Los Angeles Times, 4-16-12). "Essentially, two titans — Apple and Amazon — clashed, and competition was working."
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  13. April 24, 2012 2:52 PM EDT
    ______________________________________________________________________________________ The Real Bad Guy in the E-Book Price Fixing Case (Barry C. Lynn, Slate, 4-12-12). "Amazon’s continued domination of the publishing industry will hurt the book market."
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  14. April 30, 2012 2:42 PM EDT
    Navigating a Tightrope With Amazon (David Carr, NY Times, The Media Equatio, 4-29-12). Byliner took Buzz Bissinger's 12,000-word eBook "After Fright Night Lights" off Amazon, when Amazon reduced the price from $2.99 to zero, to compete with the lowest price available, after Apple and Starbucks launched a promotional giveaway of the book. Byliner told the Times, “While we greatly value Amazon as a partner in this new category, we need to protect our authors’ interests. As such, we had to remove the title from Amazon until May 1. We’re disappointed that Amazon customers won’t have access to this wonderful story, but we’re pleased that readers still have other options to purchase and enjoy Buzz’s powerful sequel.”
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  15. April 30, 2012 2:49 PM EDT
    Amazon vs. Publishers: The Book Battle Continues (Brad Stone, Bloomberg Businessweek Technology, 4-26-12). The big publishers resisting allowing Amazon to provide on-demand printing of their slower selling titles, for fear of empowering Amazon, who would order fewer books.
    - Pat McNees
  16. May 19, 2012 1:33 PM EDT
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  17. May 19, 2012 1:45 PM EDT
    Amazon’s growth and its lengthening shadow (Mike Shatzkin, Shatzkin Files 4-30-12). Shatzkin raises "again the questions of whether the traditional legacy publishing model is worth saving and whether it can be saved." This is an interesting analysis of "legacy publishing" (with traditional publishers) vs. self-publishing, from the author's viewpoint, and hence down the road from the publishers' viewpoint. And here's one important point: "Amazon ultimately only cares about sales made through Amazon and, if they were candid, would admit that any sale not made through them or an affiliate is a target for future growth. Publishers want as diverse a distribution network as possible; it maximizes sales and exposure for the books they’re charged with and, not at all incidentally, gives them a reason to exist."
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  18. May 19, 2012 2:08 PM EDT
    There’s no level playing field without agency pricing, and not in the way you think by Mike Shatzkin (The Idea Logical Company 5-17-12). Shatzkin is great at laying out the essence of a problem. In this case, in part: There were reasons the Big Six publishers never sold direct to customers, relying instead on retailers, especially bookstores, to service customers. And there were reasons the publishers had to set a price for a book. Now, especially with eBook sales, it is essential for them to build a customer base and sell direct to the book buying public. And Amazon is a big problem when it comes to pricing. But that's not the point of the DoJ case, which is about collusion on pricing. And so far Amazon stands to gain more than anyone--although they're the ones with the near-monopoly. But read Shatzkin's article.
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  19. May 19, 2012 2:19 PM EDT
    Amazon vs. Publishers: The Book Battle Continues (Brad Stone, Bloomberg Businessweek 4-26-12). An excellent overview of what's going on: Amazon, in its relentless push to increase efficiency, wants publishers to let them "print on demand" those books with limited audiences. The big publishers resist this, knowing it will give Amazon even more power than it has now. Many small publishers welcome it. As always, the discussion after the article is interesting for the variety of views (and misconceptions) revealed.
    - Pat McNees
  20. May 22, 2012 12:17 PM EDT
    Response to DoJ ‘Bizarre Misunderstanding’ of E-Book Business from AAR (Simon Lipskar, president of Writers House, a New York-based literary agency, on Digital Book World 5-9-12). Essentially, in an open letter to the Department of Justice, Lipskar says the DoJ lawsuit is ill-conceived and details at some length the following main points: "There are three significant areas in which the settlement is flawed, the first creating the greatest confusion: simply put, the settlement seeks to provide a remedy for alleged behavior that has caused no discernible damage. Beyond that, the settlement has ambiguous and unenforceable provisions, which make the terms agreed to untenable on the basis of actual business practice. And equally importantly, the government has failed in its obligations to provide 'a description and evaluation of alternatives to such proposal actually considered by the United States,' as demanded by the Tunney Act." He supports his argument with interest charts and figures about what has been happening with book prices. _____________________ He also urges that everyone make their objections (or support) clear by sending a letter to John R. Read Chief, Litigation III Section, United States Department of Justice, 450 5th St NW, Suite 4000, Washington DC 20530
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  21. June 7, 2012 10:37 AM EDT
    Letter from Scott Turow: Grim News. Novelist Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild, presents a strong case against Amazon and for the publishers named in Dept of Justice trial: "The irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition." He writes: "We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing. We do know that collusion wasn’t necessary: given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple’s offer and clung to it like a life raft. Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open. "Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers. Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss. This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon’s predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon’s deep pockets. "Critically, it also undermined the hardcover market that brick-and-mortar stores depend on. It was as if Netflix announced that it would stream new movies the same weekend they opened in theaters. Publishers, though reportedly furious, largely acquiesced. Amazon, after all, already controlled some 75% of the online physical book market."
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  22. June 7, 2012 10:46 AM EDT
    Barry, Joe, & Scott Turow (A Newbie's Guide to Publishing). Barry Eisler and Joe Konrath criticize Scott Turow's post.
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  23. July 20, 2012 12:51 PM EDT
    Memo to DOJ: Drop the Apple E-Books Suit (Charles E. Schumer, WSJ, 7-17-12). "...the suit could wipe out the publishing industry as we know it, making it much harder for young authors to get published. The suit will restore Amazon to the dominant position atop the e-books market it occupied for years before competition arrived in the form of Apple. If that happens, consumers will be forced to accept whatever prices Amazon sets.
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  24. July 30, 2012 2:02 PM EDT
    Justice Department to Sue Apple and E-Book Publishers (Jill Rooney, Open Academic, 3-12-12). From the viewpoint of textbook consumers (students): "This is an extremely important issue for college students. With textbook costs often averaging more than $500 per semester for the average full-time college student, the price of an individual textbook is a significant factor in a student’s education budget, and in some cases influences their course choices. Now that the sale of digital textbooks is projected to reach 18.8% of the textbook market by 2014, students, an extremely cost-conscious group, will be an important consumer demographic."
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  25. October 31, 2012 1:32 PM EDT
    Trying to explain publishing, or understand it, often remains a great challenge (Mike Shatzkin, The Shatzkin Files, 10-31-12). After attending a New York Law School conference on books, Shatzkin compares the Supreme Court decision about Bobbs Merrill to the DOJ suit today. Macy's department store, owned by Straus, was selling at 89 cents a book Bobbs Merrill had set a price of $1 for. "Clearly, Macy's was the Amazon of the time," writes Shatzkin, seeing books as a mere commodity. An interesting look at what American publishers face: "ever-escalating demands for margin from their largest accounts."
    - Pat McNees