Chuck_SchumerSenator Charles Schumer (D, New York) has an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal calling upon the Department of Justice to drop its lawsuit against the agency price publishers and Apple. Schumer seems to have bought into the Author’s Guild’s rationale, which he quotes and references, painting Amazon as the evil monopolist and publishers as beleaguered innovators who came up with a way to nobble Amazon’s unfair advantage and are now being punished for it.

The suit, Schumer writes, “could wipe out the publishing industry as we know it, making it much harder for young authors to get published.” He seems to feel that if traditional publishers fall, there won’t be any other good ways for people to get published ever again. I tend to disagree with this idea. I feel that killing off traditional publishers would only kill off traditional publishers—it wouldn’t kill publishing, though it might change it in ways we couldn’t begin to predict.

I believe that if there is money in getting manuscripts from authors to readers, someone will figure out a way to make it. If that doesn’t happen, then there must not have been any money in it after all, and we’ve been trying to prop up these old dinosaurs out of some misplaced sense of nostalgia rather than for any really good economic reason.

Of course, given that Senator Schumer’s constituency is the home of those beleaguered traditional publishers, it’s not exactly hard to see why he would take the position he does. I look forward to finding out what effect this all will have…in a year or so when it actually comes to trial.


  1. The facts support Schumer as well as the Guild, which is why this TeleRead editorial is based on beliefs and feelings instead. But if you can’t attack the facts, attack the person — it’s so much easier.

  2. And, In this particular case – very easy!

    I guess Amazon built an unfair advantage by lowering prices and providing good customer service. But, guess the real crime was to think they actually had a right to determine how much to sell their goods for.

    In a capitalist society like ours ..who would a thought, I mean the unbelievable audacity of it all.

    Shame Amazon, shame!

  3. Try to take a longer view: where will all your ebooks be in 10 years? Do you really want to bet money that one of these jerkwad corporations will still be making e-readers to view all those books you bought? Think Commodore. Think Palm. ebooks (and software) is a waste of money. We’ve finally invented something that loses value more quickly than cars.

    Electronic publishing bothers me. Books last for decades (centuries in some climates) and use no energy once produced. They are easily and privately shared and traded among individuals without government or corporate (is there a difference?) interference. The also still work after you drop them off the table.

    Then there is the quality issue. eBooks generally look like garbage if you switch readers. Yes, yes there’s Callibre to convert, but it doesn’t always work. Do we really want to put all our books in some clunky digital format which will be obsolete, along with its once-apparently-poised-for-world-dominion company, in about 10 years?

    I’m sure glad I didn’t waste any money buying books for my Apple Newton or my Palm PDAs back in the 90s. The paper books I have from that era, however, still work and are stored long-term in a box. I even traded some of them with other people over the years. Hell, that will probably made be a capitol offense in the next few decades.

  4. Miguel,

    Six of those corporations plus Apple are trying to collude on pricing. There model is one choice on pricing. They are the same people minus Apple who dominate the paper publishing market.

    An open Android device allows you to buy from whatever vendor you want to buy from. Problems with formatting are rarely an issue. Public domain offers the option of downloading many thousands of titles at no expense.

    A repressive government almost always tries to control what you read. Think Nazi’s and book burning parties. Sure you can hide them but at the risk of imprisonment or death.

    Paper books will only become obsolete if people stop buying them and if they do it won’t stop books from being published no matter the format. Books are ideas and stories there will always be a market for both. The format is not that important. The idea/fear that Amazon is going to control the entire publishing market has been fostered by the publishers who fear any distributor trying to upset the current marketing channels which is heavily loaded for the publisher at the expense of authors and distributors.

    I don’t trust Amazon long term any more than I would trust any other corporation but their crime has been to lower prices, provide good customer service while the publishers show every appearance of having conspired to raise prices with Apple’s support.

    Even if I look at it as a bargain between two devils – I’ll chose the one that’s acted honestly to this point.

    If a better idea comes along, you are not going to stop it. It appears most books will go electronic. I appreciate paper books and the benefits you mention. I still buy them but I have significantly increased the amount I read since going digital. And that is despite boycotting the big-six publishers involved. I just buy from other publishers and I have no regrets, nor any problems what-so-ever finding great books to read.

    Peace brother

  5. Miguel, I bought hundreds of ebooks for my Palm devices, which are still perfectly readable on my iPhone and iPad. I agree that we need cross-platform formats, which is why we now have a standard ebook format (ePub). It’s not difficult to extract the text from any ebook format, so the stories will survive. 🙂

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