Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Thoughts on John Sargent's Letter

Today, John Sargent of Macmillan Publishers issued a message to the authors, illustrators, and agents who do business with Macmillan Publishers addressing the expiration of their settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice. One particular portion of the letter struck me as disingenuous:
“Today a portion of our agreement with the Department of Justice (called a consent decree) expires, and we will no longer be required to allow retailers to discount e-books.

Unfortunately, the court in the Apple case made matters more complex. In a judgment against Apple, the court determined that publishers would be required to allow Apple unlimited discounting,…”
In particular the phrase “…to allow Apple unlimited discounting…”.
The issue is, Apple does not set the prices for the ebooks it sells.
The pricing is set by the publisher. (e.g. Macmillan)
Also, the so-called “agreement” mentioned above was not an agreement, it was a settlement. Macmillan, along with Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster, was nailed by the U.S. Department of Justice for price fixing. Rather than go to court, the publishers quickly plead no contest to keep it out of the news, paid fines, and received their punishment.
Today, the term of the settlement was completed, and now those publishers can once again demand higher prices for ebooks in the market.
Apple was the only company named in the lawsuit to stand up and go to court over the matter. They were found in violation and fined $450 million for their perceived role in the matter.
The Apple case is not yet over as it is in appeal.
Now that the DOJ is no longer breathing down the necks of the Big 5, readers can expect ebook prices to make a pretty big jump in the near future.
On that matter, I say to the Big 5, “Go for it!”
At $4.99, my books are reasonably and appropriately priced. Compared to $15 for a Big-5 ebook or paperback, my prices are a downright bargain!
Of course, this could simply drive the reading market to look more at independent writers. Maybe that isn't such a bad thing. The higher they raise their prices, the more likely readers will give my books a chance and I’ll sell more books.

Update 2014-12-19: I should point out that the above was basically my knee-jerk reaction when I first read the post by Mr. Sargent. It must be said that it is his job to try and put the best spin possible on his company's public relations.