If You Can’t Compete . . . Collude!

The DOJ has put together an absolutely fascinating timeline for the price collusion efforts between Apple and major publishers. (Read the entire thing here. Really. Read it. It’s the most thrilling narrative to come out of the Big 6 this year).

What’s amazing about this string of evidence is seeing how everyone involved felt like it was the most normal thing ever to ring up their competitors and band together. There was no thought to the reader. The goal, it seems, was to hurt Amazon and to protect print books.

Meanwhile, authors are screwed with higher book prices (which leads to less sales). Readers are screwed with higher prices (which means less to read or moving on to other forms of entertainment). Publishers are screwed because they could make more money selling a greater number of books at lower prices (please don’t anyone tell them this. It’s a secret that only indie authors and every other business major in the universe knows).

But none of that mattered. The bookstores were happy, the English majors who love books and hate the exact same story presented on e-ink were happy, and Amazon’s customers were sad, and that was all that mattered!

I’m sure we’ll hear from Scott Turow at any time to tell us how Apple is great for authors and Amazon sucks. Get on it, Scott!

21 responses to “If You Can’t Compete . . . Collude!”

  1. Thank you Hugh! Great article.

  2. Wow. Very interesting. It seems obvious that they new they were doing illegal things all while trying to get the others to do those same illegal things. Nice.

  3. Brandon Carbaugh Avatar
    Brandon Carbaugh

    All the “No, AMAZON has a monopoly!” that you’re likely to hear in the coming weeks can be countered with a simple fact:

    Amazon doesn’t set the prices of books sold on its website. Sellers do. All Amazon does is offer them that ability, which serves toward fostering the spirit of competition.

  4. I love sarcasm. It has a way of cutting through the bullshit and present a point succinctly, plus it’s entertaining as hell. Nice find, btw, Hugh.

    On a side note, you mentioned Bill Bryson earlier on Facebook. My sister bought me two of his books a while ago: Mother Tongue and Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words. Pretty entertaining stuff, but I haven’t finished it yet.

    1. I love Bryson. Try AT HOME and A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING. Both are mind-blowing.

  5. I happen to work for one of the publishers listed here, though I have zero involvement in the publishing side, but I don’t know what to say here! Not nice to hear of your company being involved in a massive investigation.
    We’ve always been told in statements from the CEO that the agency model was the best thing for our business.
    I have heard similar bad stories though about Amazon – they don’t seem to be such an innocent party and use their own retail might against smaller publishers, forcing higher and higher discounts from them because those publishers can’t afford for their books not to be listed on Amazon.
    I don’t know how much of that is the truth though, just what I’ve heard.

    1. When Amazon discounts their books, Amazon loses money. I don’t get why publishers pushed as many books through Amazon as possible to help them lose money! :)

  6. Brandon Carbaugh Avatar
    Brandon Carbaugh


    This article talks about how the case seems to be going: the government is arguing the facts, Apple is arguing the law. Specifically, Apple is arguing that because it’s not a competitor (to Amazon or other distribution channels, as the publishers are), and because it only served as an intermediary to those publishers, it can’t be found at fault.

    I’m like, woah, Apple doesn’t think the iBookstore is a competitor? Somebody ought to let Apple’s shareholders know!

  7. I’ve flipped through all 81 pages. Kind of stunning to see the emails and hear about the phone calls they made. I particularly enjoyed the one in which Young of Hachette recommends the recipient “double delete” the email he just sent.

    This is the most entertaining legal reading I’ve done since law school.

    It will be interesting to see how it all sorts out.

    1. Yeah, that was a particularly tasty comment.

  8. That was one of the most compelling things I have read in ages. Incredible.

      1. Don’t you have to offer a discount on that, Hugh? Or are you colluding with the DOJ to artificial inflate the price of news a keep whoever else offers it from competing????

  9. Indeed on the comment about Scott Turow He’ll explain how authors needed to make less money and be grateful for the chance any second now. You can count on it. . A very good article, Hugh.

  10. OK call me stupid, but I went through the file and I’m having a hard time understanding what’s going on. Anyone willing to spell it out in plain English?

  11. I have to say though, that I’m fantastically happy with the degree of business acumen being displayed by the Big 6 Et Al. Because, while they muck about with scheming and shenanigans (love that word!) – I’m cleaning up at a price point that doesn’t require my readers to auction their internal organs on eBay! And long may that be the case (as it’s surprisingly difficult to read without lungs. Apparently). As soon as these publishers kiss and make up, and start exploring the reasonable, competitive side of the market, I’ll be in direct competition with the likes of old Bill Bryson. And I mean, let’s face it – game over, when that happens! There’s some races you just can’t win…

  12. I am a reader, and read on average 15-20 books/month, so I have watching this with interest. Thanks Hugh, very interesting read :)

  13. I love the dig at English majors. As one who narrowly escaped confinement in a Master’s program, it took me decades to unlearn the snobbery and get back to story.

  14. Wouldn’t be wonderful if all the people in on this dealing would be REQUIRED to do jail time? Maybe Amazon could set up a place for customers to online select the sentences:

    a. 2 years
    b. 4 years
    c. 8 years
    d. 1 year for each month collusion was being plotted.
    e. Take 50% of all future salaries of the culprits. Money going to prizes for new authors.

  15. Before reading this I had no idea who Scott Turow is. Now I know he’s a moron.

  16. Easy on the English majors, folks. Some of us totally agree with Hugh….Love ya, buddy!

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