In the fight between Apple, Amazon, the government, and publishers to set prices for electronic books, independents were overlooked. Now, they're banding together and voicing complaints.
To briefly recap: In April, the Department of Justice filed anti-trust cases against Apple and five publishers -- Penguin Group USA, Hachette Books Group, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan -- alleging that they had joined in a scheme to raise the price of newly released and bestselling e-books. Three of the publishers -- Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster -- insisting they had done nothing wrong, settled with the DOJ rather than undergo protracted and extremely expensive litigation and accepted stringent terms on future pricing strategies. Apple, Penguin, and Macmillan refused to settle, and U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote has set a trial date for June 3, 2013.
Now, nine of the country's leading independent publishers have taken a bold step, and deserve public recognition for their action. On June 25, they submitted a cogent, twenty-page comment to the court objecting to the Department of Justice's settlement with the three publishers on the grounds that it would "adversely impact competition -- harming independent publishers, authors, booksellers and consumers -- and should be rejected." The case itself would still go forward, unless it is dismissed by the judge or is settled in some way that remains to be devised. At first glance, this may seem like a complex legal dispute far outside the general concerns of most bookbuyers. But stay with me and hopefully you will appreciate why the publishers deserve credit, and why this contentious issue matters to readers.