In case you missed it, three of the largest publishing houses settled a $69 million anti-trust lawsuit which was raised by the State Attorneys General office. The lawsuit claims there was a conspiracy to fix & raise ebook prices.
But the settling publishers (Hachette, Harper Collins, and Simon & Schuster) claim they did nothing wrong. That sort of statement is always there in a settlement. It’s the final claim of innocence before the defendant(s) pays a lump of money over this act whereby they “did nothing wrong.”
Of course they did nothing wrong. The States Attorney just had nothing better to do that day. The courts had a lapse in judgment which allowed such a frivolous case to be filed. The publishers engaged in no activity which raised suspicion.
Yeah, and I’m a Chinese jet pilot (couldn’t find a YouTube clip, sorry!).
Early in my never-launched law career, I learned to never debate a legal case where I didn’t have all the facts. Classic example is the McDonald’s hot coffee spilled in lap case. We’ve all heard of it. Woman in McDonald’s drive-thru spills a coffee in her own lap while driving away and sues McDonalds. Crazy, right? What right did she have to sue? It was her own fault.
Well… not so much if you know the facts of the case. The lid was 1 size too small for the cup. The coffee machine wasn’t turned down to the “daytime” heat levels after store opening (it was still at “mega hot” for store “warmup”). And so on… So, when you get all the facts, you start to see where the blame can be placed on both parties.
And so too, this case about ebook price fixing. Can anyone honestly stand in front of me and tell me why an ebook was priced at or higher than a paperback? Really? Where is your argument? Ebooks require no manufacturing, warehousing, distribution or infrastructure beyond a few KB on a server somewhere. And formatting my ebooks is FAR easier than the print counterparts (or, they are equally “fun” if you really want to argue the point. Both have their quirks).
So, why were/are ebooks from this big publishing houses priced so high?
Here comes the other side: we paid those prices as consumers. (well, I didn’t… fuck that shit. I ain’t paying $10 or more for an ebook… are you insane? Unless that ebook gives me a handy and cooks me eggs: no freakin’ way.)
But many, many consumers did pay those prices. And the prices stayed high. If you believe in Capitalism, then a free market would have seen prices lower over time for all the reasons I mentioned above: it’s FAR cheaper to produce ebooks than print books. Supply is limitless. Demand should be reasonably equal to print books (but with no supply factor, demand shouldn’t be an issue).
But the prices didn’t lower.
Now, we can throw accusations around all day, but I can only assume the Attorneys General didn’t just file this case on a hunch or random bullshit. There must be some evidence that prices were maintained at a high level by these publishers thru some sort of clandestine agreement (or “backroom, winky” agreement).
I’ve heard stories of publishers cheating their writers and all kinds of other crap. And my own experiences in the publishing world turned me quite sour to the whole enterprise. So, this really doesn’t surprise me. Even without knowing all the facts, I do believe these publishers did indeed band together to set prices on a market they all but control.
How do we fight such an evil empire? Blow up their Death Star?
Nah… go out there and support quality indy writers 🙂 Start Here.