Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for Kerfuffle Over Agency Pricing

I knew I'd manage to fit in a writerly news item somehow. :-)

So, basically, the Department of Justice is suing Apple and a bunch of book publishers over the Agency E-book Pricing Model, saying that they "engaged in a 'substantial' conspiracy as they set up the agency model for eBook pricing." Some of the publishers have agreed to settle out of court and Apple and the rest will be fighting it - more on that in this article from GalleyCat.

The particulars of this case are interesting because, as a writer, I was really excited about the agency model. I saw it as a way to prevent one major company - namely Amazon - from setting prices so low that they not only run bookstores out of business, but run publishers out of business by creating unrealistic and unsustainably low pricing expectations amongst the book-buying public. In a sense, this supposedly non-competitive behaviour on the part of publishers was actually helping to keep competition alive in the publishing and bookselling industries.  Steven Pearlstein writing for The Washington Post explained it much more eloquently than I can in this article.

Which means that in my opinion, this whole anti-competitive business with the Department of Justice is a load of cow poop. Writers need to be able to earn a living, and editors and art directors and everybody else need to be able to earn a living. If it costs X amount of money to make a book, then they should be allowed to charge a fair price based on X without being afraid that some huge megolith like Amazon is going to undercut them out of business. It's based on the extremely flawed premise that the only price that's good for the consumer is a lower price, which, if it leads to less diversity and lower quality, is obviously a load of you-know-what.

Which, incidentally, is what we'll all eventually be buying if book prices continue to fall and publishers continue to go out of business because they can't afford to pay for editors anymore. No more editors = not such great books. Well, you know what they say: you get what you pay for.

What do you think? Feel free to disagree. Let's discuss it in the comments.


  1. You've said what I would have said and stated it very well. Unfortunately, Amazon has already set book buying price expectations so low that most people have stopped seeing the value of supporting a locally owned store "because I can get it cheaper on Amazon."

  2. Remember when a paperback was $5 bucks and that was reasonable? Now it's either 99 cents or $25! We're living in a world of extremes. Oy.

  3. The Department of Justice is too intrusive so just wait until the election. . .EPA as well.

    1. So which candidates would be best to vote for to ensure a healthy literary nation?

  4. If you have not already done so, visit and read their Blog. Go back to December this year, they have been in battle for authors rights on various topics such as this that you might be interested in.


  5. Amazon is like Walmart on line. If I thought I could make it as an author without using them I sure would. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month.

  6. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, as a small publisher I love having an advantage when it comes to setting prices, on the other hand the obscene profits major publishers expect from ebooks is annoying.

  7. It's a scary thought, books not having proper editing!! Though I've seen books like that on shelves right back into the 90s, so it's not like all the old books got proper editing. Or maybe it was that the authors of said books were too 'big' and didn't think they NEEDED editing.