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Last week about 20,000 publishers, librarians, book sellers, authors and agents got together to do whatever it is they do when they all get together, at the annual BookExpo America in New York City.

In the New York Times report on the conference, this had me scratching my head:

In a panel titled “Publishing, Bookselling and the Whole Damn Thing,” John Sargent, the chief executive of Macmillan, called Attorney General Eric Holder “incompetent,” a comment on the Justice Department antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five publishing companies filed last year. Apple, the only remaining defendant, will go on trial in federal court next week.
There was no further context for Mr. Sargent's comment about the AG. Macmillan did agree to a settlement with the DOJ which made me wonder just how incompetent the Attorney General really was when compared to CEO of Macmillan.

And speaking of the DOJ antitrust suit there is more news this week. Here is a link to the diary that I wrote in March which gives some background to the charges that Apple is facing. Currently Apple is the sole remaining defendant in this case as the co-defendant publishers have all settled with the DOJ.

In a nutshell, in 2007, Amazon introduced the Kindle and began selling ebooks for it. Amazon and the publishers were all operating under the standard terms for booksellers, that is, the publishers sold Amazon the books, and Amazon sold the books to the public for whatever price the market would bear. Amazon was heavily discounting its ebooks, clearly in an attempt to attract new customers to the concept of digital books.

The publishers, concerned that Amazon's marketing strategy would lead to a public expectation of a $9.99 ebook which would undercut their hardback book pricing, got together and decided that they needed to raise the retail price of ebooks. They found a likely partner in Steve Jobs who agreed to an agency model contract that would allow the publishers to set the price of the ebooks and then pay Apple a flat 30% commission on each book sold.

Within a couple of days in January, 2010, all five publishers (big six less Random House)  announced the new agreements with Apple who was planning the launch of its new iPad tablet. Apple demanded a "most favored nation" clause which precluded the publishers from selling their books anywhere else for a price lower than what they charged Apple.

Amazon was eventually forced to accept the same agreement.

Apple is now at trial in New York City. Opening arguments were delivered Monday and included an attempt by Apple to put the judge on the defensive based on the "tentative" opinion that she voiced at the pretrial hearing that the government would be able to show "at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of ebooks."

Early in his opening arguments, Orin Snyder, an Apple lawyer, brought up the comments gently. He said the judge's "tentative view" wasn't "great for [his] client" and he asked Cote to forget any prior opinions she might have formed so that Apple receives justice. He prepared to move on when Cote stopped him and — just as gently — tried to reassure him that Apple will be treated fairly. She noted that her policy of reviewing the evidence during the pretrial phase was designed to speed up the case, a strategy that Apple agreed to. She told Snyder that she had only seen some of the evidence and would reserve judgment until she heard it all. She said that "this isn't a vote about whether I like Apple ... the deck isn't stacked against Apple unless the evidence stacks against Apple."

 - The Verge

Yesterday the CEO of Penguin testified:
The testimony of David Shanks appeared to bolster the U.S. government's case that Apple conspired with five publishers, including Penguin, to fix prices in the developing e-books market in 2009 and 2010.

Shanks, the CEO of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., said a clause in Apple's contract allowing it to match the lowest prices for e-books sold by rivals was "certainly a factor" in seeking to move other retailers including Amazon to an agency model, in which publishers control prices.

 - Reuters

The trial is expected to last three weeks.

Last week I wrote about some of the library/ebook issues. A few weeks earlier I wrote about consumer ownership of ebooks. So it should come as no surprise that I found this article at LJInsider by Meredith Schwartz to be very interesting. During the BookExpo book publishers seemed to suggest that they want the exchange to be both a sale and a license, depending upon whom they are talking to at the time:

But when it came to questions from librarians about things like interlibrary loan and/or resale of used ebooks, it was very clear from the responses that publishers consider this transaction a license—whether or not they used the word. They felt very comfortable saying that when libraries pay for an ebook, it doesn’t come with the right to do those things. But if it were a sale, libraries would have those rights, under the first sale doctrine. There might be, as per the ReDigi case, some hoops to jump through as to which technical mechanisms to accomplish them are permitted and which ones are not, but those would be matters for the courts to settle, not publishers. (For more on first sale, licensing, and ebooks, see “Licensed to Sell? IDPF Panel Tackles Tough Questions on Digital Content.”)

Yet when Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, referred to the transaction as a license, not a sale, publishers demurred. And Aiken supplied the reason, which had not previously been clear to my library-centric viewpoint. I knew that publishers were afraid that libraries would only buy one copy and loan it to everyone in the world, and that the sale of used ebooks weeded from library collections would erode the sale of new ones. But what I did not know is that publishers, according to Aiken, have to pay authors 50 percent for a license, and only 25 percent for a sale.

In plain English, they want the transaction to be a license when it restricts a library's ability to loan or resell it, but they want it to be a sale when it comes time to compensate the author. Pretty cool how they do that, isn't it?

The Wall Street Journal expected digital books to play a bigger role in last week's convention than they actually did. The industry appeared, according to the NYT (link above), to be reassured by the fact that the rapid growth of ebooks as a percentage of total sales appears to have slowed. At least that was the public attitude.

When the book industry gathers at BookExpo America this week in New York, among the hot titles they'll preview will be Malcolm Gladwell's "David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants." It could be a metaphor for the debate about the industry's future that will likely dominate much of the backroom chatter at the show.
Looks like HarperCollins has still not forgiven Amazon:
A new initiative from HarperCollins allows authors to give away digital advance copies of their ebooks. The ebooks are protected by DRM and can only be read on devices that support Adobe Digital Editions (which does not include Kindle).

 - PaidContent:

Because we know that there is not enough variety in ebook platforms, Samsung has decided to provide another.
Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and all the others have a new competitor to worry about: Samsung.

 The company is set to make a strong push into the ebook retail market through its popular line of smartphones, tablets and “phablets,” a new device category between phone and tablet.

[snip]

The company has quietly launched and updated Samsung Hub, a content store like Google Play that will eventually come preloaded on all Samsung devices, including phones, tablets, televisions, laptops and more. Included in the Samsung Hub is Samsung Readers Hub, the company’s ebook portal.

 - DigitalBookWorld

After combining the offices for all of its publishing imprints into a single one in New York, Amazon has launched a new website for its publishing arm. It is really a very attractive website.
The new website Amazon has unveiled basically is a centralized portal that allows bookstores, authors, writers, and the media to gain a deeper understanding of what the publishing program is all about, and what differentiates it from CreateSpace, Kindle Singles, and Kindle Direct Publishing.

 - GoodEReader

I confess, I check the Daily Deals at Amazon. Often, as in daily. If I owned a Nook I would be checking the Daily Find.

I have found a lot of books for under $3 that way. And since I am a voracious reader, and a shopping addict, this satisfies a couple of serious needs. It is a cheap and easy way to check out authors that you are unfamiliar with, to sample a series or revisit an older book that your library is lacking. And, according to the New York Times, those one day flash sales have had big impacts for authors. Dennis Lehane's book, Gone Baby Gone, sold 23 books one day. The next day, included in the Daily Deal, it sold 13,071 copies.

But bookstores are dwindling, leaving publishers with a deep worry about the future of the business: with fewer brick-and-mortar options, how will readers discover books?

One-day discounts are part of the answer. Promotions like the Kindle Daily Deal from Amazon and the Nook Daily Find from Barnes & Noble have produced extraordinary sales bumps for e-books, the kind that usually happen as a result of glowing book reviews or an author’s prominent television appearances.

Web sites like BookBub.com, founded last year, track and aggregate bargain-basement deals on e-books, alerting consumers about temporary discounts from retailers like Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Barnes & Noble.

Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule




DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
Sun 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 2:00 PM Political Books Susan from 29
Mon 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery Susan from 29, michelewln
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
TUES 5:00 PM Indigo Kalliope: Poems from the Left bigjacbigjacbigjac
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
alternate Tuesdays 8:00 AM All Things Bookstore Dave in Northridge
Tue 8:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 2:00 PM e-books Susan from 29
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
Thu (first each month) 11:00 AM Monthly Bookpost AdmiralNaismith
Thu (third each month - on hiatus) 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
Fri 6:00 PM Books Go Boom! Brecht
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 11:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.

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