Ever since the advent of the agency model for ebook pricing–the oh-so-valuable wedge publishers needed to fight Amazon’s $9.99 price point–it’s been the big question: Are they actually going to get away with this? Today we have our answer: Not if the Department of Justice has anything to say about it! Alleging collusion to fix prices the agency has filed an antitrust suit against Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Apple itself.
The allegations are awfully cloak-and-dagger. If true, they suggest the publishing industry has carried over a certain old-world stylishness into the digital age. From the filing (courtesy of the Verge):
Starting no later than September of 2008 and continuing for at least one year, the Publisher Defendants’ CEOs (at times joined by one non-defendant publisher’ s CEO) met privately as a group approximately once per quarter. These meetings took place in private dining rooms of upscale Manhattan restaurants and were used to discuss confidential business and competitive matters, including Amazon’s e-book retailing practices.
Emphasis most definitely ours. We like to imagine these meetings looked a little something like this.
Cut to Cupertino:
On February 19, 2009, Apple Vice President of Internet Services Eddy Cue explained to Apple CEO Steve Jobs in an e-mail, “[a]t this point, it would be very easy for us to compete and I think trounce Amazon by opening up our own ebook store.”
As of this moment, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster have already settled. Apple and MacMillan, on the other hand, may well fight: Bloomberg reports they’ll argue that, by pushing back against Amazon’s overwhelming dominance, the agreements actually increased competition in the space.
Amazon, meanwhile, called the move a “big win for Kindle owners” and promised, “We look forward to being allowed to lower prices on more Kindle books.”
Where’s a GIF of that laugh when we need it?