Late last week The WSJ reported that the Department of Justice is considering suing the Price-Fix 6. Like I said when I covered it, it’s generally accepted that Apple and 5 of the major publishers conspired to raise ebook prices as part creating the agency model.
That bit of news has sent shockwaves through publishing, and ever since then various people have been criticizing the DOJ for even having an anti-trust investigation. Everyone knows that price fixing is wrong, but they would all prefer for the crime to continue rather than give Amazon the chance to dominate the ebook market again.
On Saturday Mike Cane penned the first post of what I have decided is going to be a new series on this blog. Mike disproved a couple of the more questionable arguments put forward by Scott Turow, the head the of the
Publisher’s Author’s Guild.
I’m going to continue his work, and luckily for me there’s no end of end of topics.
Joe Wikert weighed in today. One of the arguments he presents has to do with publishers controlling their brands.
The agency model prevents brand erosion — Think of the premium products you’ve bought or admired. Oftentimes their prices are higher than most of the competition’s. What would happen if those prices were suddenly significantly reduced? Would those products retain the full value of their premium brand? Highly unlikely. And shouldn’t the owner of that brand have a say in what price is associated with it?
The problem with this is that readers don’t think of publishers as brands. For the most part, readers don’t even know who the publisher is. Oh, SF fans know Baen, romance readers know Harlequin, and techies know O’Reilly. But that’s about it.
Ask me who published the ebooks on my ereader and I could not tell you beyond the trio mentioned above. I know authors, series, and genres. But publishers don’t matter.
But let’s take that argument seriously for a moment. If publishers should control their brands then let’s take this to the logical conclusion. They should open their own ebookstores and sell direct. This would also eliminate any concern for Amazon to undersell them; they can price the books however they like.
It’s a good idea, but you and I both know that (with a few exceptions) it won’t happen. And that’s because the problem here isn’t prices, in spite of what everyone says. The real issue is that no one feels capable of competing with Amazon. If you don’t like how Amazon does business, fine. Start your own company and out compete them. This should be easy for publishers, given that they already control the content.
Do you know why the major publishers haven’t (and won’t) do this? It ‘s because it would involve learning a new business style, and the dinosaurs cannot adapt anymore. It’s far easier to hobble the fleet of foot than it is to compete.