The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal finally agree on something, and so does most of the mainstream media. That suing the book publishers for anti-trust violations is inexplicable. The problem is that if the DOJ succeeds in forcing the publishers to change their business model, the only party that will benefit from this is Amazon.com which is the real threat to competition in the book business.
David Carr, writing in The New York Times called the lawsuit “the modern equivalent of taking on Standard Oil but breaking up Ed’s Gas ‘N’ Groceries on Route 19 instead.” He wonders “why the crumbling book business is worthy of so much attention from Justice while Wall Street skates is a broader question we’ll leave for another day.” Carr continued, “after a week of watching the Justice Department and Amazon team up, I’ve learned that low prices come with a big cost.”
Holman Jenkins Jr. in The Wall Street Journal said, “in essence, Justice says that, beginning in 2008, several plankton, in the form of five publishers, conspired against a whale, Amazon, whose monopoly clout had imposed a $9.99 retail price for e-books…. Given Amazon’s dominance, it’s hardly offensive that all five used the opportunity of Apple’s arrival in the market to reclaim that power….
“Justice calls it collusion. In reality, publishers have nothing to collude about, except maybe Clive Cussler’s next advance…. let’s face it: Publishers have every reason to fear Amazon’s exploitative behavior…”
Jenkins closes with: “Judging by Justice’s slobbering over Amazon, as if whatever Amazon wants is the Lord’s ordained order in the e-book market, many of those résumés are headed to Seattle.”
Barry Lynn at Slate says “the DoJ got this issue…spectacularly wrong…. Now this vital marketplace is, for all intents, under the sway of a single boss. One that has a direct interest in stripping capital from publishers. One that has a direct interest in gouging all writers who must ride its rails. One that has a direct interest in suppressing any work of reporting that questions its power, or for that matter the political economic regime that enabled such concentration of power. One that is swiftly capturing direct control over much of the rest of the U.S. economy as well.”
Michael Shermer in an op-ed piece in The Los Angeles Times said: “The Justice Department should have left things alone. Essentially, two titans —Apple and Amazon — clashed, and competition was working…. Amazon will gain a government-aided advantage over the competition…. What this lawsuit probably will do instead is return to Amazon the power to monopolize the e-book market through predatory pricing to the detriment of publishers, authors and, ultimately, readers.”