But I disagree.
Agency pricing–the price fixing that the big six publishers conspired on for eBooks–is bad for established authors and in the long run it will be bad for the big six publishers. In the short term the Department of Justice (DOJ) is right in that it causes “unmistakable consumer harm.” But what both the DOJ and the publishers ignore is the indie publishing market.
Here’s what agency pricing does for us indies:
1) It forces readers who have jumped into the eReading future to pay more for established authors’ books from traditional publishing houses.
2) It encourages people to buy well-reviewed and relatively inexpensive indie published books.
The price fixing by the big publishers would certainly be illegal if they were an oligopoly with complete control of the writing and distribution of books (as they do with paper books) but eBooks have changed all that.
It’s not just the indie authors that the big six publishers have to watch out for now, it’s the indie-publishers. They’re already out there, some little better than vanity presses, but others will publish great books, will make a name for themselves and rise in strength to rival the big six.
Thanks to eBooks, they don’t even need the deep pockets of the likes of Amazon (a company that has also jumped into publishing) in order to start up. Like the upstart Apple back in the seventies, the next big publisher may currently have its headquarters in a basement or a garage. But they won’t be there for long.
The DOJ is doing its best for consumers, who are being jilted in the short term by the price fixing, but I believe that agency pricing will fail simply because it opens the door for competition to enter the publishing market place. The big six publishers will discover that they can only buy up their new competitors in the short term. In the long term by keeping prices high, they simply encourage more and more start-up publishers to enter the market to fill the vacuum of cheap eBooks.
The competition won’t have the burden of trucks or warehouses or Manhattan offices (really, couldn’t you guys find some cheaper office space in New Jersey?) or any of the other trappings of the big houses.
Competition will end agency pricing because eReaders will continue to sell, and people will want cheap books that are entertaining during tough economic times.
The market will sort them all.