May 11, 2012

Agents group joins the battle vs DOJ


The Association of Authors Representatives has joined the Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, and a wide assortment of others in speaking out in opposition to the lawsuit by the Department of Justice against five of the Big Six publishers and Apple.

According to a report from Publishers Weekly, the group was inspired by an open letter written to the DOJ by member Simon Lipskar of the Writers House agency, “listing, in great detail, the ways in which the department’s suit against publishers was misguided and ill-informed,” and constituted a “bizarre misunderstanding.”

Now, according to the PW report, AAR president Gail Hochman says she has sent an official letter (pdf) to the DOJ “outlining the position of the AAR Board on the settlement, and urging members (and their clients) to write their own feelings about the settlement to the Department.”

In the letter, Hochman urges the DOJ to rethink its case, saying the action of the publishers was necessary because Amazon’s “artificially low pricing unfairly threatened the world of publishing and bookselling and would ultimately have a devastating effect on the choices available to book consumers.” She says when Apple proposed the agency model, “our members breathed a sigh of relief,” because it would “create a fair playing field” for others to “join the ebook marketplace.”

What’s more, Hochman sent a copy of her letter to AAR members, urging them to send their own version on to the DOJ themselves. “We believe the more letters from publishing professionals that are received, the better the chance of affecting the judge’s final decision,” she explains.

While the growing opposition to the DOJ on this case is impressive and full of great minds, this development seemed to elicit great cheer in New York today. After all, if anybody can negotiate a better deal out of the government, it’s Gail Hochman.


Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives