April 2, 2012

DOJ, Apple, and five of the Big Six close to settlement in case that will authorize Amazon as government-approved monopoly


The Department of Justice: Looking out for a monopoly somewhere near you

Reuters is reporting that the Department of Justice is nearing a settlement with Apple and five of the Big Six publishers being investigated for collusion on fixing the price of ebooks. Mind-fuckingly, the purported settlement, according to the Reuters story, will be favorable to Amazon, and will probably work to lower the price of ebooks — exactly the thing the so-called “collusion” was intended to prevent, by exactly the monopoly everyone in the publishing industry is praying for the DOJ to do something about. (See our earlier report, and our report before that, as well as this report on the Authors’ Guild blowing a gasket about the same thing.)

According to the Reuters story, which is by Diane Betz,

While negotiations are still fluid, the settlement is expected to eliminate Apple’s so-called “most favored nation” status, which had prevented the publishers from selling lower-priced e-books through rival retailers such as Amazon.com Inc or Barnes & Noble Inc, the people said.

The deal could also force a shift, at least temporarily, in pricing control from publishers to retailers, one of the people said.

The story continues with exactly the kind of reporting that makes anyone who gives a damn about the culture hit their forehead really, really hard: “Such a move to a ‘wholesale model’ would not only benefit consumers but also Amazon, which had been the leading bargain e-book retailer with its Kindle reader.”

And therein lies Amazon’s evil accomplishment: The reporter, as if responding to an implant in her temple from Amazon, equates cheap-as-possible ebooks with “benefitting consumers.” It doesn’t, of course, benefit consumers at all in the long run. Not to mention, fuck you, authors and publishers!

Further scream-worthy reporting: The article goes on to note that “The impact on Apple is expected to be minimal. Apple generates about $50 million from e-book sales, a tiny portion of its revenue of more than $100 billion.” It does not note the devastating impact of the DOJ’s misaprehension upon publishers, and not just the Big Six, but the thousands of other publishers extant in this country.

As Michael Kozlowski notes in a post at the terrific Good Ereader site, “this will be a landmark case and effect tons of companies. Amazon and the other top online booksellers can afford to keep books at rock bottom prices but smaller companies will have a hard time making a buck.”

Kozlowski is, as usual, right. Except for one thing: Other top online booksellers? Isn’t that the problem? There’s only one. And it seems the government is behind them, big time.


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