Barnes & Noble submitted a brief today to the DOJ with their commentary on the anti-trust settlement proposed by the DOJ as part of the prosecution of the Agency Six, the 5 major publishers and Apple who conspired to bring about the Agency pricing model for ebooks.
I was asked to pick apart the, and while I plan to do that I first want to write about how I viewed the three-ring circus the antitrust settlement, massive state-level lawsuit, and ongoing DOJ lawsuit involving 3 of the Agency Six.
I’ve largely ignored the ongoing antitrust lawsuit as well as the many editorials about the case (aside from a few early posts). I had to for the simple reason that I cannot stand the arguments being presented.
It does not matter what words were used because at their core, many of the editorials argued that the Agency model should be allowed to continue. The writers have their various reasons to argue this position, but it doesn’t matter what they say. In my mind all of the arguments in favor continuing the agency model boil down to a single unspoken point:
Let the conspirators get away with the crime.
The Agency Six conspired to bring about the Agency pricing model and force Amazon to accept it – this we can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, given that 3 of the conspirators have already settled. So what all of the editorials in favor of keeping the Agency model are really saying is that we should allow the confessed criminals to keep the prize that they conspired to get.
Folks, it really is that simple.
As part of the settlement, the DOJ is blocking the Agency model because the conspirators cannot be allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains. It does not matter whether or not you or anyone else is harmed by the end of the Agency model. What matters is that the conspirators not be allowed to succeed.
If even a hint of the agency model were allowed to stand then it would be like punishing a child for stealing candy while letting him continue to eat the candy. That makes no sense, not on any level.
Yes, it’s going to upset the market, and yes, it’s going to let Amazon have fun with the ebook prices. Arguments could be made that this is bad, but I’m sorry but it doesn’t matter. The first and foremost issue here is that the conspiracy be stopped, and thus the Agency model has to go with it.
I can understand why some are afraid of Amazon (though I do think you’re psyching yourselves out), but if and when the bad times come you cannot blame Amazon for acting in their own best interest. You cannot blame the DOJ for prosecuting the conspiracy. No, the death of the agency model must be laid at the feet of the conspirators.
And that is how I see it (though it did take me this long to express the ideas in words).