6:21am

Mon April 16, 2012
E-Book Price-Fixing?

Burriss on Media: Publisher Lawsuit

MURFRESSBORO, Tenn. (BURRISS)  --  I’ve often talked about printed books versus e-books, and still think there is something better about the printed versions. Sure, I have an e-book reader, but I still prefer turning a real page, rather than pushing a button.

But I also remember from high school, when my favorite English teacher wouldn’t let us read from a paperback version of Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar.” She said only hardbacks were the real versions. And I remember thinking, what difference does it matter which version you read? After all, the words are the same.

So I’ll have to admit, although the words are the same, e-books are taking a larger and larger share of the publishing market.

Now, following a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice, the future of e-books looks a little shaky. They certainly aren’t going away, but how we buy the books, and what they cost, could change over the next few years.

It seems the government is charging Apple and several book publishers with anti-trust violations, claiming they were involved in price-fixing. Basically the suit says prices were being set by publishers, rather than retailers, and that the prices had to be the same across sellers. In addition, the suit says Apple and the publishers specifically and deliberately set out to destroy Amazon.

As if to add credence to the suit, several publishers this week refused to renew their contracts with Amazon, claiming the service was selling e-books for too little. Understand here, publishers charge Amazon for the right to publish books, and then Amazon charges consumers whatever it wants. Somehow I thought that’s how the marketplace was supposed to work.

Over the years publishers tried to do whatever they could to slow the growth of e-books, often by the simple expedient of not allowing the creation of electronic editions. By selling the books so cheaply, Amazon was able to create a market where none previously existed. And Apple simply decided Amazon was too successful, no matter how consumers benefited.

I'm Larry Burriss