The Justice Department suit of Apple and five large publishing houses for price-fixing of e-books has sent tremors throughout the publishing world, and might place the growing strength of the e-book market in Amazon.com’s hands. We take a close look at the suit and the e-book market in this update.
The news is so fresh that I’ve hardly had time to absorb it: No sooner had authors and publishers started to accept, understand, and play with the role of e-books in publishing, than the Justice Department stepped in to block a proactive response by the book industry to changing technology and changing habits. With Nooks, iPads, and other e-readers competing with the Kindle, and with prices freed from the dictates of Amazon, books seemed to be springing back. I’ll confess that when I saw the headlines about the suit I felt stabbed in the chest.
The iPad may sometimes seem like a boondoggle for authors (Yet another must-have device? Now I need an app for my memoir?), but it has been a bona-fide boon for e-book vendors. Caught in the middle are agents and traditional publishers, trying to carve out new territory for themselves and their clients. In April 2010, Sarah Baker explained the finer points of the chaotic electronic book market, informing authors of the state of e-rights, royalties, piracy, and pricing in this competitive (and lucrative) landscape. Let’s trace the zigs and zags of the e-book industry in the year since.