Many people were confused about the decision handed down by the Department of Justice regarding the question of whether Big Publishers had colluded to fix prices of e-books. The argument seems to have shifted from whether they colluded to whether they have the right to set prices at all. While writers may be frustrated with their royalty percentages on electronic editions of their books, the answer is not to take pricing out of the hands of publishers and hand it over to Amazon, or even the DOJ. It’s not the DOJ’s job to determine what a fair or affordable price is for an e-book–only to ensure that there’s nothing dishonest going on regarding the setting of that price.
I’m not here to foist my opinions regarding e-book pricing on the general reading public, but I would like to provide those interested with some additional information. So, for those curious about the hows and whys of the situation, I offer you an excellent blog post by author Charles Stross: What Amazon’s E-book Strategy Means. Stross breaks down very carefully what many of Amazon’s actions translate to in the larger business context. And also, Mike Shatzkin’s After the DOJ Action, Where Do We Stand? Mike links back within his post to previous discussions on the subject, so you can get some further background on why the publishers are so intent on maintaining the agency price model. Finally, Nathan Bransford on Why E-books Cost So Much.
At the end of the day, this situation is about more than what an e-book costs. It’s about the shape of the entire publishing industry, determining how books go from a glimmer in a writer’s mind to the volume on a consumer’s nightstand. I have been a buyer of books far longer than I have been a literary agent, and while I admit to loving the ease of purchase and the attractive discounts offered by Amazon.com, I am not so much a fan as to wish to see them become the only major outlet for purchasing books or anything else.