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Posts tagged ‘anti-trust’

On Apple, royalties and glittery bits

After several weeks of not finding anything to really inspire a post, today there seems to be too many bits of inspiration. Some of them I’ve tossed to the side because, well, the blog would be bogged down in politics all too quickly. Those I’ll save for my own blog. But others are continuation of topics we’ve already discussed while yet others simply had me shaking my head and rubbing my hands together gleefully (okay, I’m evil but you guys already knew that).

Let’s start with the continuing saga of the price fixing suit filed by the Department of Justice against Apple and five of the (former) Big Six publishers and the accompanying class action and state suits.

Last month, Apple filed a complaint with Judge Cotes complaining of the actions of the monitor appointed to make sure Apple is living up to the judgment of the court.  The monitor, Michael Bronwich, is charging Apple $1,100 and hour plus a 15% administrative fee. Apple also contends Bronwich is acting “as an independent investigator whose role is to interrogate Apple personnel about matters unrelated to the injunction in an effort to ferret out any wrongdoing, all at Apple’s expense.” In conjunction with this allegation, Apple claims Judge Cote’s final order concerning the monitor, in which she gives the monitor the authority to meet ex parte with Apple executives illegally expanded the scope of the final injunction against Apple. This, according to Apple, lets Bronwich go on a “fishing trip” that has little if anything to do with his role as monitor in the price fixing case.

In a rather quick response to the complaint, Judge Cotes basically told Apple there is a process to follow and it didn’t. The first step in the process is to take their complaints to the Department of Justice. ““Objections are to be conveyed in writing to the United States and the Plaintiff States within ten calendar days after the action giving rise to the objection.” If, after reasonable efforts, the two sides can’t come to an agreement, they can request to meet with the judge. Judge Cote did take one other step. In response to Apple’s complaint that the original ordered allowed for ex parte communications between the monitor and the court, she amended the order to disallow such communications.

Now, let’s look at Apple’s main issues with the monitor — other than the rather obvious one that Apple just doesn’t like anyone looking over their shoulder to make sure no other anti-trust violations are committed. First, with regard to the reasonableness of the monitor’s fees, they do seem excessive. However, that will be an easily proven — or disproven — complaint. All the two sides have to do is show what the current going rate is for such sort of third-party monitoring. An agreement between the two sides should be easily had. However, Apple being Apple and the DoJ probably not wanting to look weak, who knows. Let’s hope Judge Cote has time on her docket for a meeting before long between the parties.

Where I foresee a problem coming to an agreement is the issue of whether the monitor should be able to meet ex parte with Apple execs. I, personally, have no problem with such meetings as long as the monitor is working under strict guidelines. He should not be allowed to go on “fishing trips”, as Apple alleges, looking for anything Apple or its employees may be doing in violation of the law. The monitor is there to insure the terms of the injunction are being complied with and nothing more. He should not be looking for anything outside the scope of the injunction.

Nor should he be hampered by having to wait to talk to an Apple exec until a corporate attorney is able to be present at the meeting. That would be like not being able to serve a search warrant until a defense attorney is present for its execution; Not only would the notice required for such action give the perp time to get rid of any incriminating evidence, it would slow the process down beyond the snail’s pace it is already at. The same applies with regard to Apple. The monitor has to be able to talk with Apple execs. They have the right to refuse to discuss anything without him without an attorney present. But to have to wait each and every time is not necessary, at least not in my layman’s opinion.

But that’s not the last of the news about the anti-trust suit the DoJ filed against Apple and the five publishers. Judge Cote has approved the last of the e-book settlements in this and related cases. Specifically, she approved the settlement involving Macmillan and Penguin. This means more than $166 million will eventually be paid out to consumers. But it won’t happen quickly. So don’t expect an early Christmas gift. The first payments will come no sooner than 30 days after the approval becomes final. Does this signal that the end is in sight for this chapter in publishing history? No. At least I don’t think so. Apple is still appealing the injunction against it and there are still third party objectors to Judge Cote’s judgment. But we are, in my opinion, on the downhill side of it. The only question is if publishing is going to cross the finish line and learn from what happened or if there will be an avalanche that will sweep away any lessons that might have been learned and leave legacy publishing even more engrained in practices that are outdated and outmoded.

In the “duh” department, we have the following quotes about e-book royalty rates paid by legacy publishers:

“there’s a lot of inertia built into the system . . . a strong incentive for publishers not to fairly pay authors for e-book sales.” (Paul Aiken)

“The problem is that [agents and authors] don’t know what to ask for, and publishers don’t know what to give.” (industry insider)

Aiken, who at the time of the quote was executive director of The Authors Guild, is referring to a system in which many publishing contracts have a clause “stating that an author will receive a higher e-book royalty rate if, and when, the standard rate changes.” Simply put, the industry standard won’t change until the publishers start paying higher rates but they aren’t going to pay higher rates because the industry standard hasn’t changed. Don’t you just love that sort of circular thinking?

But it is the last quote that blows my mind. After several years of a very healthy e-book market, why don’t agents know what to ask for? As for publishers not knowing what to give, don’t believe that for a minute. Publishers know where every penny of their money goes. They know how much it costs to produce an e-book. But they are also the ones who have tried telling the reading public — as well as their own authors — that an e-book requires extra art costs, extra editing, proofing, etc. No, it doesn’t. Once a book is edited, it is edited. It doesn’t matter how many different formats it is being published in. As for proofing, all you need is someone to put eyeballs on it to make sure there have been no glitches in the digital conversion process. It doesn’t take long and it sure as heck shouldn’t cost much. Cover art? Give me a break. You aren’t paying for two or three different covers. You are simply manipulating size.

Agents also know what to ask for, or they should. This is especially true for those agents who belong to agencies that now offer their own publishing services. If they don’t know how much to ask for, then they need to start doing their research. It is time for publishing — agents, editors and publishers of the legacy sort — to quit acting like things haven’t changed over the last ten years. More importantly, it is time for authors to quit letting them get away with it. There are alternatives.

And then, finally, there was this article that caught my eye the other day. First off, if these few items are the only controversies inside the world of science fiction and fantasy, we’re doing pretty damned good. The flip-side of their list of controversies is that it exhibits the current trend in SFWA and amongst some concoms to bend over backwards in homage to the great god of political correctness, even if it goes against the basic philosophy of the con or organization in question.

1. Elizabeth Moon and Wiscon.

When I first heard about this, I’ll admit the double-standard presented by the Wiscon concom and those condemning Moon bothered me. I could identify with a lot about what she said. Any parent with a child in school where “senstivity” courses in Islam were taught could. Heck, any woman ought to have been able to. More than that, Moon was exercising her right to free speech ON HER OWN BLOG. But she dared speak out against one of the PC darling topics at the time and the haters came out. Wiscon, after initially saying it wouldn’t withdraw her invitation as guest of honor, crumbled in the face of criticism and did just that. While Moon didn’t condemn the con for doing so, let’s just say that it seemed more than a bit strange that a con that prides itself on its feminist roots would remove her from the program when she was simply exercising her right to express her opinion about a religion that looks at women as second class citizens.

2. Harlan Ellison groping Connie Willis on stage at the Hugos.

Now, before all the glittery ones get their hoohahs in an uproar, Ellison was wrong when he groped Willis and he was wrong with his response later. My issue is two-fold. The first is that Ellison has been held up almost as a standard to strive for in bad behavior by the same folks who now condemn him. We’ve all heard the SWFA folks laugh at how Ellison allegedly sent a dead gopher to a publisher. His antics are legend. But, until it became the cause celeb with SFWA and the glittery ones to go after anyone who is male, over the age of 40 and who doesn’t feel self-loathing for being male, no one said much of anything about it. Now, Ellison is simply another “example of the sexism of the old guard of SF.”

3. Vox Day expelled from SFWA

Oh my. We’ve written about this some. Kate has some wonderful posts and comments about it.  So I won’t go into the details. What I will point out is that in this so-called list of controversies in SFF, it is apparently all right for N. K. Jemison to call Vox an “ass hole” because she didn’t name him even though the context of her remarks made it clear who she was referring to. But his response, which was over the top but — having read Vox — was probably meant to get a response — was enough to get him kicked out of SFWA. Why? Because it was racist and sexist and he’s male and not enlightened and SFWA is, apparently, the PC police of our industry now.

4. The SFWA Bulletin has a Sexist Trifecta

Okay, now my head explodes. I’ve written on this as have others of the mad ones. SFWA and some of its members have now decided that you are bad and must be punished if you are female and approve a cover with a “chicks in chainmail” type of image on it. Worse, if a couple of “old white guys” talk about women editors they’ve known and comment that these women looked good in a swimsuit, they are evil and must have their column taken away from them. Why? Because they are disrespecting the female sex.

WTF?!?

Again, if you are male, over a certain age and not apologetic for having a penis and for enjoying the company of women, you are the enemy I guess. And let’s look at the other side, just to show that there is a double standard. These same women — and so-called men — who object to these covers that “objectify” women have no problem with the bare-chested, loin cloth clad men on the covers. Why is that, I wonder?

Finally, if this isn’t enough to prove to you that the current crop of “enlightened” leader so-called leaders of the genre and its organizations aren’t just as bigoted in their own way, consider this quote that ends the article about these “controversies”:

Well, welcome to 2013. And the world wide web, where everybody, even those underprivileged nobodies you never had to listen to before, has a chance to be heard.

Everyone, it seems, except those who don’t fit their definition of politically correct and enlightened.

 

The inmates are trying to run the asylum again

Yep, that’s right. The inmates have managed to get out of their cells and are running around loose. Now, most days, it is pretty entertaining to watch. After all, they usually are either pointing at the sky and screaming about how the aliens are coming and taking over the world, or they are burying their heads in the sand and doing their best to ignore the changes needed to be made in order to survive. But today, well, all I can do is shake my head and wonder how long this current farce will run before the final curtain falls on it.

Let’s start with what has to be one of the most mind-boggling pieces I’ve seen in a long while. I have to give a hat-tip to one of our readers for pointing me to this link. Think about this. Your local bookstore — and not a chain store — manages to get an in-store signing set up with an author who has a book coming out from a major publisher. The store does a magnificent job promoting the event and manages to pre-sell 450 copies of the book by mega-best selling author. (These copies are to be autographed by the author) So the store calls the publisher and places the order.

Does the publisher jump up and down and offer to send the books out post-haste? Hell no. They’ll only ship the store 200 copies. Doesn’t matter that the books are pre-sold. Doesn’t matter that the store will pay up-front for the books. The publisher isn’t going to to budge. It doesn’t matter that this will be a PR debacle for the store, the author or, duh, for the publisher.

Well, here is where I tip my hat to the store and to the local Target. The store owner went down the street, talked to the powers that be at Target, and got the books needed to finish filling the pre-orders (300). Target even sold them to the owner at a discount. Epic win for both the indie store and Target and massive epic fail for the publisher.

Now, what reasonable business would turn down a pre-paid order of 450 units of a $30 item? I can’t think of any, especially not one that is suffering slumping sales. But the publisher did. It was worried about returns. The books were pre-paid so there wouldn’t have been any returns. But that little bit of information mattered not. Nor did the fact that the author, who is described as a “major best seller”, would not be pleased to find she had been cut out of hundreds of sales by her own publisher.

So, you have to ask yourself how often this sort of idiocy occurs and how many sales publishers cost themselves and their authors because they can’t see the forest for the trees?

And then there is the spin as publishers try to convince themselves that they are making up  lost ground. An example is this article about Penguin’s so-called profits last year. According to figures released by Penguin, total sales rose 1%. Sales, not profits. As a counterpoint, operating profit fell 12%. Add to that the fact Penguin expects e-book sales to slow this year and you have to wonder how they see these figures as being anything but troublesome. Yet, we are told that the powers that be feel Penguin came out of this “pretty good”.

Maybe I am having trouble seeing the forest for the trees, but a 12% decrease in operating profits coupled with a forecasted slow down in e-book sales (the one segment of the business that has continued to grow by leaps and bounds) would be something I’d be worried about. But then, I’ve never been a corporate cheerleader.

And then there are the indie booksellers who have filed a class action lawsuit against Amazon and the Big Six over DRM. My first issue with this is that there are only three plaintiffs to the suit, so I’m not sure they will qualify as a “class”. But that will be up to the court to decide.

My biggest issue is that this suit is only aimed at Amazon and none of the other online e-book retailers — like Barnes & Noble, iBooks/iTunes, Kobo, etc. If these three booksellers are really worried that applying DRM to e-books restricts the sale of e-books, shouldn’t these other retailers be included as defendants? Oh, wait, it’s only Amazon because the DRM applied means only the kindle line of products can read the titles.

But wait, aren’t the vast majority of these titles also available in DRM’d epub versions through BN.com, etc? I guess that doesn’t count. We’re just supposed to turn away from that little bit of information because it doesn’t fit the scenario that these booksellers want us to believe.

However, even if their allegations are true, so what? Aren’t companies allowed to produce products and sell them wherever they want? Sure, there are limitations like not violating exclusivity agreements — oh, wait, we aren’t supposed to think about those either because that would fly in the face of what the plaintiffs allege.

Don’t get me wrong. I feel for indie booksellers. But this isn’t the way for them to win back patrons. Worse, if this case does go to court and they lose, they will more than likely liable for court costs, not just for themselves but for the six publishers and Amazon. Do you really think the retailers will be able to cover hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and costs and stay in business? Of course, that will be Amazon’s fault too — at least in the eyes of the haters.

Instead of stomping their feet and holding their breath like a couple of pouty kids, these booksellers need to be looking forward. How can they work directly with publishers or authors to sell e-books? What are they doing to promote local authors? More importantly, sit back and wait and see what happens in the DoJ’s price fixing case against Apple (in case you’ve missed it, the five publishers have all settled). There will be changes coming from that, not only for Apple and the publishers but, in all likelihood, Amazon as well. Take a lesson from the bookseller mentioned at the top of this post. Instead of whining and whinging, that bookseller went out and did something to turn what could have been a public relations nightmare and a big hit against the store into a positive.

Dice are rolling, the knives are out

by Amanda S. Green

Let me start with an apology to Sarah for channeling the soundtrack to Evita this morning. But, as I try to put this post together, that scene from the musical is what comes to mind. Except this time, the players are the big publishers and Apple. The publishers, in the role of Juan Peron, are worried because the Department of Justice is now–finally–doing what several states’ attorneys general and the European Union are doing: investigating them for price fixing. Apple is cast in the role of Evita, reassuring Peron that nothing will happen, even as the world is crumbling around them.

A little background first. Several days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice had warned Apple and five of the big six publishers that it planned “to sue them for allegedly colluding to raise the price of electronic books.” The five publishers are:

  • Simon & Schuster Inc.
  • Hachette Book Group;
  • Penguin Group (USA);
  • Macmillan;
  • HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

The article goes on to say that at least some of the publishers have been in talks with the DoJ. These talks have not yet resulted in any agreement between the parties. In fact, Apple Insider reports that the talks have taken “many turns” and that any sort of agreement is still a long way off. According to the Wall Street Journal, the investigation stems from the fact that Steve Jobs, wanting to secure the new iPad’s place in the market “suggested moving to an “agency model,” under which the publishers would set the price of the book and Apple would take a 30% cut. Apple also stipulated that publishers couldn’t let rival retailers sell the same book at a lower price.”

The allegation of Jobs’ trying to stifle the market is strengthened by information included in Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson. Specifically, by the following quote: “We told the publishers, ‘We’ll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway.”

All of this comes on the heels of a class action law suit against Apple and the publishers alleging price-fixing and the EU’s anti-competition investigation into the agency model of pricing.

Needless to say, the cries of “foul!” have arisen, not in support of the consumers or even in support of DoJ enforcing the country’s anti-trust laws. Now, the cries have come from the same folks who have been so vocal in the Amazon is Evil diatribes. Without knowing the full reasons behind the DoJ investigation, without knowing just how deep the alleged collusion might run (assuming there is collusion and, in my opinion, there is), these writers are saying DoJ is looking at the wrong party. No, Amazon is the bad guy. Quit picking on the saints of publishing and its savior. Okay, maybe they don’t say exactly that, but it is what I read between the lines.

I was going to let this slide with nothing more than a passing mention in my regular Tuesday post . . . until I read Scott Turow’s open letter over at The Author’s Guild. Like any good author, he tugs at the heartstrings with the header for the letter: Grim News. Talk about a hook. But, in my opinion, it all goes down from there. Bear with me as I go through parts of the letter.

Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

So, I guess it’s okay for publishers and distributors to do whatever they want, break whatever commercial laws they want as long as we maintain a “rich literary culture”. It’s also all right, apparently, to do so even if it is screwing the readers who buy your books. Let’s forget about the fact that books sales continue to plummet and that the agency pricing model was supposedly put into place in order to save the hard cover sector of the industry. That’s worked real well, hasn’t it? (yes, the snark meter is starting to go off).

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher’s sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

True, Apple is acting as a sales agent. But, what Turow seems to forget is that this is a role Apple took to the publishers and said it would fulfill IF they agreed to Apple’s terms and IF they agreed not to allow their titles to be sold for less anywhere else. Gee, that sort of sounds like price fixing to me. But then, I’m just a writing hack, not one who will ever put out anything to enrich our “literary culture”.

We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing.

Again, true. None of us were in the room with Steve Jobs and the publishers. However, we can infer based on the evidence we’ve seen. Oh, and then there’s that pesky quote from the Isaacson book. But let’s not muddy the waters with reasonable inferences and the evidence of Jobs’ own words.

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.

Just because it wasn’t necessary doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t Turow saying here that those publishers not adopting the agency model were evidencing irrational behavior?

Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

There it is! The Amazon is evil and the source of all of publishing’s problems. Now, before you start objecting, I know Amazon isn’t pure. No company is. However, the problems facing bookstores started long before Amazon. They started when the big box stores arrived on the scene. They came in and, with their ability to buy in volume, put the locally owned bookstores out of business. Then they built too many stores. Then the economy took a downturn. Then the economy started an upswing and Amazon took off. Did Amazon have an impact? Sure. But it wasn’t the big bad guy so many want to make it out to be.  But I’ve blogged about this before and won’t go in-depth into it now.

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.

Wait a minute. What other players? There were no real players at the time, certainly not with a dedicated e-reader. Sorry, I don’t count Sony because the general public wouldn’t think to go to a Sony site to buy books of any sort. Did Borders have a digital sales site at that time? No. In fact, remember the first time Borders did list digital sales? It didn’t sell the e-books itself. No, it linked over to Amazon. Barnes & Noble didn’t have digital sales at that time. In fact, the leader in the e-book sales foray was Baen and Jim Baen was vilified for not only offering e-books but for doing so free of DRM.

Critically, it also undermined the hardcover market that brick-and-mortar stores depend on.

Again, Amazon is evil. It is offering a product at a price the public can pay. Sorry, publishers, but most folks can’t afford $30 for a hard cover and certainly not for several at a time. But, again, there are other issues as well. The big box stores didn’t pay attention to market trends and they overbuilt in urban areas, flooding the market and, therefore, decreasing each store’s market share. But let’s not allow logic to taint our thinking.

Amazon quickly captured the e-book market as well, bringing customers into its proprietary device-and-format walled garden (Sony, the prior e-book device leader, uses the open ePub format).

Oooh, and nothing here about the DRM the publishers insist upon or the limitation of the number of devices an e-book can be on. Oh, and let’s forget about the fact that this so-called ePub format was through Adobe and let’s see a show of hands of folks who can no longer read those files because you have switched computers and that computer isn’t “activated” for the old Adobe account.

We’ll skip a small bit here.

By the end of 2009, Amazon held an estimated 90% of the rapidly growing e-book market. Traditional bookstores were shutting down or scaling back. Borders was on its knees. Barnes & (sic) Noble had gamely just begun selling its Nook, but it lacked the capital to absorb e-book losses for long.

Again, all this was happening for more reasons that just Amazon and the Kindle. Although, I guess any good story needs a villain and Amazon has been dubbed it. I guess Amazon is responsible for the fact that Borders was badly managed and B&N took so long to get into the e-reader market. Remember, for months and months prior to entering the e-reader market, B&N sold other companies’ e-readers.  Then there is B&N’s less than ideal search engine. But, Amazon is evil.

Enter Steve Jobs. Two years ago January, one month after B&N shipped its first Nook, Jobs introduced Apple’s iPad, with its proven iTunes-and-apps agency model for digital content. Five of the largest publishers jumped on with Apple’s model, even though it meant those publishers would make less money on every e-book they sold.

Wait just one minute. Maybe I’m a bit dense, but where is the economic sense in agreeing to a deal that means these poor publishers “would make less money on every e-book they sold”? Am I the only one who sees a bit of a problem with that statement?

Publishers had no real choice (except the largest, Random House, which could bide its time – it took the leap with the launch of the iPad 2): it was seize the agency model or watch Amazon’s discounting destroy their physical distribution chain.

So, we are now doing the apples and oranges. Remember, folks, this was when these very same publishers were still saying e-books were a passing fancy that would soon go away. But that doesn’t matter, at least not to Turow and those who believe this link of bunk, because Amazon is the root of all evil, at least when it comes to publishing. As long as they have Amazon to blame, they can turn a blind eye to the poor business practices of the bookstores and publishers.

Bookstores were well along the path to becoming as rare as record stores.  That’s why we publicly backed Macmillan when Amazon tried to use its online print book dominance to enforce its preferred e-book sales terms, even though Apple’s agency model also meant lower royalties for authors.

So, even though print sales had been declining before the general upswing in e-book sales (and this means for Amazon as well as for the brick and mortar stores), Authors Guild sided against it’s members’ economic futures. Oh, I hear the cries that I don’t understand, but I do. AG, publishers and too many authors were ignoring market trends, just as they do now. The change in technology and customer demands scares them. But guess what, you adapt, you evolve, or you go the way of the dinosaurs. You don’t stand there like the little Dutch boy with your finger in the dike because, guess what, that dike is going to give way sooner or later. I’d rather not get caught in the flood and be washed away when it does.

Our concern about bookstores isn’t rooted in sentiment: bookstores are critical to modern bookselling.  Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online.  In bookstores, readers are open to trying new genres and new authors: it’s by far the best way for new works to be discovered.  Publishing shouldn’t have to choose between bricks and clicks.  A robust book marketplace demands both bookstore showrooms to properly display new titles and online distribution for the convenience of customers.  Apple thrives on this very model: a strong retail presence to display its high-touch products coupled with vigorous online distribution.  While bookstores close, Apple has been busy opening more than 300 stores.

The key to this is BOOKstores. Not stores that sell a few books. What Turow doesn’t address here is the fact that these same big box bookstores he is so intent on protecting don’t look and feel like bookstores any longer. Their staffs, on the whole, aren’t knowledgeable about their products. Books aren’t on the shelves long enough to build a following. Managers aren’t able to buy based on their market. No, their stock is determined by regional or, worse, national buyers.  Oh, the other thing he forget — the hue and cry that went up from those authors who see Amazon as the Big Evil when Amazon announced it was going to open a boutique bookstore. Gee, how dare Amazon open a bricks and mortar store even when that is what they say is needed to keep the industry alive. Double standard, no?

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to become familiar to large numbers of readers, the disappearance of bookstores is deeply troubling, but it will have little effect on our sales or incomes.  Like rock bands from the pre-Napster era, established authors can still draw a crowd, if not to a stadium, at least to a virtual shopping cart. For new authors, however, a difficult profession is poised to become much more difficult. The high royalties of direct publishing, for most, are more than offset by drastically smaller markets. And publishers won’t risk capital where there’s no reasonable prospect for reward. They will necessarily focus their capital on what works in an online environment: familiar works by familiar authors.

Again, true–but only to a point. Publishing, and agents, have been moving away from new authors for ages. Ask any of us who have been trying for years to get in. We get the nice, often personalized rejections saying how good our book is but there’s just no spot for it. And this is after it’s sat on a desk for months or years. Ask the mid-listers that have been the backbone of traditional publishing for ages. These are the authors publishers knew they could always count on for X-number of sales. Now, in order to take a risk on the so-called best sellers (who, btw, aren’t always), mid-listers are being cut loose. Basically, what Turow is describing here is an industry afraid of change and growing stale because it won’t take chances.

Let’s skip a bit here because it’s just more of the same.

Let’s hope the reports are wrong, or that the Justice Department reconsiders. The irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.

I guess my biggest issue with stances like the one presented by Turow is that, even though they say they are looking at the whole picture, they aren’t. Not really. What they are doing is trying to maintain the old order, even though that order has been in decline for decades. Do I want to see bookstores disappear? No. But the big box stores probably will. Does that mean the brand will disappear? Not if they are smart. What they need to do is go away from the high overhead, huge footage stores that they have to sell toys and knick-knacks, etc., to help meet the rent. Go to smaller venues where the bills are easier to meet. Return to local or regional ordering. Let stores stock what their customers want, not what some list across the country says they should be buying. Hire folks at a reasonable salary WITH benefits and knowledge about the books they are selling. Go back to thinking about the customer and not just the bottom line because, with the customers coming through the door, the bottom line will be taken care of.

Again, Amazon isn’t pure in this. It has had a hand in the continuing decline. But it isn’t the only cause.

But, what is telling and what every author should consider, is that this letter is supporting action that reduces the money publishers receive for e-book titles and that, in turns, means less money for the authors. Why are you supporting something that takes money from your pocket?

And, before you go back to the old saving the hard cover sales argument, ask yourself this: when is the last time your book was published as a hard cover? There simply aren’t as many hard covers being published anymore and, again, this trend started before Amazon. So, before you start lighting your torches and preparing the pyre for them, look at the issue dispassionately and think. Think about what is best for you in the long run. For me, the answer is simple: like change or not, we have to adapt or we will be left behind. That change, now, is making our e-books available at an affordable price and without DRM. It isn’t insulting our readers by trying to get them to pay more for a digital book than they would a hard copy version of the same book.

But then, I’m just a hack who knows what my bank account will allow me to do.