I’m still catching up on news that might be of interest from the last ten days or so. Today: publishing.
Last week, the Department of Justice accused publishers of wanting to be treated like Special Snowflakes:
The DoJ maintains that arguments made by the parties that the government doesn’t understand the e-book business is just a variation made by other industries at other times. “While e-books are a relatively new arrival on the publishing scene, a plea for special treatment under the antitrust laws is an old standby,” the DoJ wrote. “Railroads, publishers, lawyers, construction engineers, health care providers, and oil companies are just some of the voices that have raised cries against ‘ruinous competition’ over the decades. Time and time again the courts have rejected the invitation to exempt particular businesses from the reach of the Sherman Act.” (Publishers Weekly)
Well, okay, they didn’t actually call them special snowflakes, but Courtney Milan, in a post definitely worth reading, did:
Your Unspecial Antitrust Snowflake
This post is for those publishing professionals who think that if they can just get the DOJ to understand the argument that publishing is special, the lawsuit against the agency publishers will magically vanish.
These people have probably not taken a look at the history of price-fixing. Every industry that has been socked with a price-fixing complaint has argued that it is special, and if only the court understood how special it was, the court would agree that it should have the capacity to fix prices. Every industry. I don’t know why every industry feels it has to make this argument, but they all lose—every single time.
This blog post is a “greatest hits” of antitrust—throwing together a smattering of cases in which industries have argued that they should be exempt from antitrust law, that the Court simply doesn’t understand the industry, and that if only it did, they would prevail! (via Dear Author)
If you have a subscription, Publishers Marketplace also has analysis.
I have little doubt that the matter will be settled soon. Very soon. The DoJ will prevail. This is going to mean big, big changes. For one thing, some Big Six publishers will be playing by different rules from the others. I suspect that there will soon be an Astonishing Merger (though I’ve no idea how quickly this will happen). If someone put a gun to my head and made me pull something out of thin air, I’d say that Random House will acquire HarperCollins. Is this very likely? Well, no, but making this kind of wild guess/juxtaposition is one of the ways I both entertain myself and learn to not fall into a rut when it comes to thinking about my business: how it works, and why, and who benefits.
Anyway, if you tie that notion of big change into Amazon’s announcement of an up-coming Big Press Conference for September 6, it’s difficult not to wonder. My guess is that they’ll be introducing Kindle Fires of various iterations: possibly a 10″ version (though more probably a sleeker, faster, more featured 7″, and something backlit). It wouldn’t shock me if they also announced some kind of publishing infrastructure surprise. They’ve been very quiet lately, so I bet something’s brewing. But we’ll find out soon enough. I wonder if it will be the long-awaited showroom (or acquisition of, or partnering with, bookstores that would serve as same). See note on wild guesses, above.
One thing’s for sure, they won’t be introducing this retro typewriter for iPad: