by David Biddle and Martha Nichols
Why Higher Prices Are Good for Authors
E-book “price-fixing” has a scurrilous ring, as if a bunch of shadowy hoods in business suits have been deciding the fates of humble readers. But in April 2012, that’s exactly what the U.S. Department of Justice accused five of the six big publishers and Apple of doing with e-book prices.
To date, all the publishers—Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Penguin, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster—have settled with the DOJ. (The “Big Six” of corporate publishing are now down to five; Random House is merging with Penguin.)
But when the publishers started settling last year, some with undue haste, an important opportunity was lost. We need a public discussion of the economics of creating and producing books. Settlements without a trial, in which nobody admits wrongdoing, have a way of obscuring unresolved issues in the midst of major business transformations.
The biggest question mark concerns authors and how we’re supposed to earn a living by writing books. We’re the workhorses behind the whole moneymaking chain, but we are still, usually, the last to profit. [MORE]