The Apple eBook Credit You Got Could Hurt Publishing, and Other Amusing Nonsense
Yesterday’s news about the ebook antitrust settlement credits has not lead to the flood of angry posts denouncing evil Amazon which we would have gotten last year.
I’ve only found a single diatribe so far, but what we lack in quantity, the following piece makes up for in its entertainment value.
Writing over at Inverse, Ryan Britt justifies the agency conspiracy with the tired old argument that two wrongs make a right. With a casual disregard for facts or context which would rival Salon.com or David Streitfeld, Britt tries to explain why "the only entity benefiting from this is Amazon".
His post has so many half-truths, factual errors, and false assumptions that it was honestly a joy to read, and I would like to share that joy with you.
To start with, Britt claims that publishers create books. Authors are merely the fishermen who gather the books from the wild:
Understanding this situation means understanding the difference between Amazon being a retailer and publishers being companies that create books. Think about fish: the fish are the books, fisherman are the authors, and the fishmongers are the publishers.
The average person might think that Amazon would be the fishmongers in this scenario, given that both are types of retailers, but no, Britt says that Amazon is merely a trucker:
Anyone else — Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Kobo — are just a truckers who drive the fish out into the world so people can enjoy them. Amazon then, is a truck driver that sets the prices of how much people can sell their fish for. While both Amazon and Random House are in the book business, they do completely different things, meaning you wouldn’t think they’d be granted the same powers and responsibilities. And yet, Amazon gets to tell Random House and all the other publishers, exactly how to sell their books (fish) even though, really, they’re just the ones who are supposed to distribute the goods with the prices already set.
Do you hear that?
Amazon doesn’t do anything to sell the books, process payment, store them, or promote them. That’s someone else’s job.
Amazon is merely a trucker, and needs to learn its place, dammit.
Britt goes on to argue that everything that the publishers and Apple did was okay because evil Amazon controls the prices on the ebook market. Yes, he used the classic two wrongs make a right argument, the one that Judge Cote shot down.
Essentially, Amazon is in control of ebook prices. If the publishers did under-the-letter-of-the-law, collude, they were doing so out of survival and to combat a monopoly, not create one.
It looks like that Britt or his editor is unaware that six major publishers, including Penguin Random House, control their ebook prices now. That detail is particularly amusing given that Britt has a book with Penguin (it was published last November).
Instead, Britt repeats the urban legend that Amazon "had attained 90% of the market by systematically selling ebooks below cost", which is imply untrue.
And so was his claim that the credits we received yesterday were "largely extracted from organizations that create books at the benefit of an organization who traditionally, doesn’t".
No, the $400 million distributed yesterday came solely from Apple. The settlement credits from the publishers were distributed in 2014 and 2015.
Yesterday’s funds all came from Apple, via its settlement agreement.
O O O
I don’t know about you, folks, but this is the most fun thing I have read all week. While this initially reads like a clueless anti-Amazon rant, in retrospect it is clear that it has to be intentional satire.
No one could get this many details wrong accidentally, so it has to be a joke. And it’s a great one, too.