Friday, July 12, 2013

Battle Of The Behemoths

Like David Horsey, I have mixed emotions on the recent court decision regarding e-book pricing.

In the battle of the technology business mega-monsters, Apple Inc. has lost a round to On Wednesday, a federal judge in New York ruled that Apple “conspired to raise the retail price of e-books” with the aim of cutting into Amazon’s market share. The judge said Amazon may now seek damages from Apple.

The federal prosecutor in the case claimed this was a big victory for consumers. Well, maybe yes and maybe no.

Amazon has become the 800-pound gorilla in the publishing world – actually, make that 8 million. The company sells so many more books than anyone else that it has driven so-called bricks-and-mortar bookstores, both big and small, to near extinction. It may do the same to book publishers. ...

Apple and the publishers may have pushed a line of legality, but just who is the likely winner of this particular game of Monopoly? When most of the bookstores are dead and the few remaining publishers are a shadow of their former selves, Amazon will be the absolute dictator of the publishing world.

The Justice Department may not agree, but that sounds a lot like a monopoly to me.   [Emphasis added]

It isn't too hard for me to cheer the slap-down Apple got from the court.  I'm still angry about that company's cheesy, yet "legal" way of avoiding the payment of US taxes.  We little people don't have such a luxury.

And libraries have found a way to "loan" e-books to their members, so I'm sure bookstores can figure out a way to sell them.  I wouldn't be surprised if my favorite independent bookstore (Vroman's in Pasadena, CA) hadn't already made that service available to its customers.  I will check that out the next time I'm out and about in that area.

Still, the idea of just one major corporation having so much influence on the pricing of a product is worrisome.  Historically, that scenario has never played out well for consumers, and I don't imagine it will this time either.  I say this as an avid Amazon customer who downloads a book every month from their web site.

I guess the publishers will be weighing in next with a law suit of their own.  That might be interesting.



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