In The Judge that Apple Hates (June 2014), Vanity Fair profiles the federal judge at the helm of United States v. Apple Inc., the case filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against Apple and five traditional publishing companies.
Last summer, in a 160-page landmark opinion, Judge Denise Cote found that Apple and the five traditional publishing companies “conspired to raise, fix, and stabilize the retail price for newly released and bestselling trade e-books” in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and other laws, thus explaining “how and why the prices for many [e-books] rose significantly in the United States in April 2010.” All of the publishers had previously settled.
The collusion came in response to Amazon’s e-book pricing, which typically sold new releases for $9.99, regardless of what price the publisher wanted. The publishers wanted e-books to cost more, but didn’t want to leave Amazon, and so Apple came up with a way for them to all shift to a new “agency” model in which they could typically charge around $12.99 and $14.99 for e-books.
Max at Litigation and Trial summed up the case nicely earlier this week in Judge Cote and the Pre-Trial Preview in the Apple-Amazon e-Books Case, writing:
Whatever one thinks of Amazon’s impact on the book publishing world, it’s hard to dispute that Apple and the publishers entered into a collusive agreement for the purpose of raising prices — the primary evil our antitrust laws are designed to prevent.
I agree. As I wrote in What’s Troubling About Amazon?:
Amazon is really no worse than its competitors, like Apple or the big publishers. They are all on a hegemonic quest to dominate the market, except that, while the big publishers and Apple colluded to raise prices to the detriment of consumers, Amazon has been expanding consumers’ access to books by introducing new products for readers (like the various Kindles), having an open market for virtually any writer, and pushing publishers to reduce prices.
Now, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has the task of reviewing Judge Cote’s opinion. We’ll see whether they agree with us. If they don’t, I’m sure those of us who have become fond of e-books will likely see rising prices again.
I’ve previously discussed my aversion to paying a hefty price for an e-book, which is essentially a license to use a computer file that I am often restricted from sharing with others or giving away.
So, rising e-book prices will just mean I won’t buy as many e-books—or, at least, I’ll stop buying the most expensive ones. Price isn’t always correlated with quality anyway.
I am primarily an e-book reader—after swearing for years that I’d never stop reading traditional paper books—and, for now, my e-reader of choice is a Kindle.
It’s through this lens that I read Apple’s pre-trial memorandum of law. Apple filed it last year in the case before Judge Cote, but I hadn’t read it until Max linked to it in his post this week. In singing Apple’s praises, its lawyers asserted: “Apple  fundamentally transformed the e-reading experience, leaving rudimentary, black-and-white, and expensive single-purpose e-readers (e.g., the Kindle) in the dust.”
I just love
hyperbole “zealous advocacy” in legal memoranda. As of October 2013, several months after Apple filed its memorandum, the Kindle was still the most popular e-reader, even in comparison to the iPad. That’s hardly leaving Kindle “in the dust,” even if many e-book readers intend to buy a tablet in the future (a market dominated by Apple).
My kids love their iPad, but they use it only for games and Internet access. They use a Kindle for e-books, and it’s not one of the fancy-pants versions. A “single-purpose e-reader” is ideal for children who may be tempted by the non-reading related activities available on tablets. Actually, it’s ideal for me too. I’d probably get a lot less reading done on a tablet.
How about you? Do you read e-books? What type of device do you prefer?