Monday, April 16, 2012

Amazon, Apple, Trad Pubs, the DOJ, and Agency

This is somewhat of an evolving story as 3 of 5 traditional publishers being sued alongside Apple have settled with the DOJ. What that means for agency pricing and if or when things will begin changing is up in the air.

Honestly, I don't really care about any of that.  This doesn't affect the day to day of my self publishing business.  I have no intention of ever submitting (in the truest sense of the word) to a traditional publisher  to publish my stories (unless I am wildly successful and they want to empty their coffers into my coffers for the chance to do business with me a la Hocking or Locke--in which case I might).

Then why am I talking about this?

Because I was initially surprised at the press over the suit (here and here).  Everyone is bitching and moaning about what a bad actor amazon is. I am sorry but lowering prices for your customers (charging 9.99 for bestsellers) and gaining marketshare because of that doesn't make one a bad actor. Do right by your customers and your customers will do right by you.

I say initially surprised because the news outlets that are moaning have been in bed with traditional publishing and will continue to be. These are the same publications that wouldn't even list self published titles in their 'bestelling' categories despite some titles selling hundreds of thousands more copies than the most successful traditionally published titles that they did list. They are basically the mouthpieces for the publishing industry. So, no, I am no longer surprised by the tone of the coverage.

This whole thing just seems so wasteful to me, however.  There will be untold millions wasted in legal fees because some CEOs couldn't be mature adults and instead chose to act like children.  Pure waste.

The rundown:

Basically, the companies being sued by the Department of Justice are alleged to have colluded with each other and Apple to the detriment of Amazon in the 1-2 years prior to the Ipad's release. While I can understand their motivation for doing this (they all seem to hate Amazon's success in the marketplace), it doesn't give you the right to break the law.  (I am not being a right and wrong moralist here-- If you don't agree with a law, go ahead and break it.  But be aware of the consequences of doing so.  Better yet, lobby to have the law changed.)

Apple's introduction of the iPad and the resulting growth of the iBookstore was bound to be an enormous disruptor to Amazon's marketshare. But everyone had to go just a step too far and that's why they are now in trouble.

Agreeing to use the agency pricing structure as a way to punish Amazon a) didn't really work and b) promotes price fixing rather than price diversity in the marketplace.  But that is not even the issue for me.

How things played out could have easily have occurred legally.  Without the collusion.  Apple was introducing a tablet that was (is?) definitely a game changer for ebooks and bad news for the Kindle.  They could have insisted on Agency.  That in and of itself is fine, though aggressive.  But still well within their rights.  And each publisher could have easily said yes or no based solely on their own counsel rather than making sure things are lining up with the other publishers.  (This is exactly what the 2 non-settling publishers say occurred.)  Each publisher most likely would have gone along with Apple's plan individually and the end result would be the same as what exists now.

Agency in and of itself is not bad.  Agency is not the reason they are being sued.  They are being sued bc of the way they went about it.

If I knock on your door and offer you money for your TV and you say yes-- I get a tv.  Or I could break into your house and take your tv--I get a tv.  One way of getting your tv is legal.  The other is not.

This is what I mean by waste.  Those being sued let their emotions rule and instead of thinking things through and making better decisions (I am sounding like a mom for a reason), they chose the first thing that came to mind.  If only a little more frontal lobe activity had occurred when making these decisions, perhaps they could have achieved the exact same result without resulting to such dubious methods.

Chatting it up over multiple dinners and phone calls about how we can stop a business from doing business bc they are hurting our business is just not allowed.  It is the opposite of a free market.  Consumers are the bosses in the market.  If you as a publisher are losing marketshare or profits then change is clearly needed.  Do something bigger, better, brighter for your customer and you will be the marketplace king.  It seems pretty simple to me.

Am I missing something?

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