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DRM Lawsuit Filed By Independent Bookstores Against Amazon, "Big Six" Publishers 155

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-not-read-list dept.
concealment writes "Three independent bookstores are taking Amazon and the so-called Big Six publishers (Random House, Penguin, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan) to court in an attempt to level the playing field for book retailers. If successful, the lawsuit could completely change how ebooks are sold. The class-action complaint, filed in New York on Feb 15., claims that by entering into confidential agreements with the Big Six publishers, who control approximately 60 percent of print book revenue in the U.S., Amazon has created a monopoly in the marketplace that is designed to control prices and destroy independent booksellers."
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DRM Lawsuit Filed By Independent Bookstores Against Amazon, "Big Six" Publishers

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Prices for most ebooks from amazon are priced correctly. best sellers being 15$ where a hardcover is 32.... raise that 15 and watch piracy skyrocket.

    • any advertisement for 'hardcover' on a e-book gets pirated on principle

    • by Blue23 (197186)

      I'd spend say 80% of paperback price to buy an ebook - there's still editing, marketing, and other costs, not just printing and distribution.

      But for most popular authors, I *can't* BUY an ebook. I can LICENSE an ebook.

      When it's mine, I can move it to other devices, give it away, lend it out, and otherwise have it completely unavailable to change/removal by the publisher or distributor, then I've bought it.

      When comparing the value I get from purchasing a paperback (my preferred size, easy to hold and stick

    • Maybe for "best sellers", but I recently saw an Amazon eBook priced higher than the dead tree paperback version. WTF? Note: I did not buy it.

    • by chrismcb (983081)
      I think you meant to say "prices for most ebooks from amazon (or anywhere else) are priced incorrectly"
      When a book first comes out an ebook is typically around $15 and the hardcover sells for 18-20.
      The problem is, later when the massmarket comes out, the price of the massmarket is the same or less than the ebook.
  • Nothing stops a publisher from selling a DRM free ebook, if they choose to do so. Nothing stops a user from buying a DRM free ebook and using it on their reader. Check out the Calibre program. What these publishers want is to force publishers to sell all ebooks in a drm free format. Not gonna happen.

    • by Luthair (847766)

      Exactly, Tor books are all available DRM free through Amazon, presumably other publishers could also do this if they desired.

      I'm all for DRM free but it seems like they're barking up the wrong tree with Amazon.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Nothing stops a publisher from selling a DRM free ebook, if they choose to do so. Nothing stops a user from buying a DRM free ebook and using it on their reader. Check out the Calibre program. What these publishers want is to force publishers to sell all ebooks in a drm free format. Not gonna happen.

      It will happen - it took the music industry a while to come to terms with selling DRM free music, and the book industry will follow, especially since books are even smaller and easier to share than music - I've seen 20GB Blu-ray rips available online, a file that size could hold 20,000 eBooks.

    • Re:DRM Free (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Obfuscant (592200) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:29PM (#42974747)

      Nothing stops a user from buying a DRM free ebook and using it on their reader.

      As long as someone is selling that book in DRM-free format, that is. I'm going through this issue now with the publisher of three magazines I read on a regular basis, one of which I've been a print subscriber for thirty years or more. The only DRM-free (and multi-format, to boot) vendor (Fictionwise) stopped selling. Every other source has DRM (or the equivalent, being tied to a proprietary reader program).

      I complained loudly to the publisher and got ignored at first, and then I was told that this issue was being examined and they wanted to move away from the retailers they were using. The confusing part was that she said that "we won't do that DRM again". I don't know if she meant "we will be DRM-free when we arrange future retailers", or if she was referring to the DRM-free versions they used to provide to Fictionwise not happening again.

      Either way, Calibre and epub is your friend, except when the publishers start mangling the formats so you get black and white cover images and say essentially "read these articles in this order".

  • So wait....they're complaining that this "monopoly" is keeping the prices high or low? If it's keeping the high, I don't see how other retailers can be driven out of business. If it's keeping prices low...then it's good for the customer!

    I thought anti monopoly laws were meant to protect consumers and not competition as the recent dropping of the probe against Google showed.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      So wait....they're complaining that this "monopoly" is keeping the prices high or low? If it's keeping the high, I don't see how other retailers can be driven out of business. If it's keeping prices low...then it's good for the customer!

      I thought anti monopoly laws were meant to protect consumers and not competition as the recent dropping of the probe against Google showed.

      The problem with a monopoly keeping prices artificially low is that once competitors are driven out of the market, then the monopoly is free to raise prices. They can always keep out new competition by lowering prices wherever a competitor arises.

      So even if a (non-regulated) monopoly is pushing down prices, that's not always a good thing in the long run.

      • by bhagwad (1426855)

        Except that for ebooks, there is no "artificially" low price. You can sell it for a few cents and it'll still be enough to cover the marginal costs of producing a new one.

        No one can predict the future. You can't automatically assume that Amazon will raise prices later on...that's like punishing someone for a crime they haven't even committed yet.

        • by hawguy (1600213)

          Except that for ebooks, there is no "artificially" low price. You can sell it for a few cents and it'll still be enough to cover the marginal costs of producing a new one.

          No one can predict the future. You can't automatically assume that Amazon will raise prices later on...that's like punishing someone for a crime they haven't even committed yet.

          How would you know if they are inflating prices? If Amazon did become a true monopoly over eBooks, any price they set would be the "market price" no matter how high or low.

          • by bhagwad (1426855)

            Does it matter? The point is they haven't done anything yet so you can't punish them!

          • by Mitreya (579078)

            How would you know if they are inflating prices?

            I think a book with the price that is higher than the paper copy of the same is one good indication.

            • by hawguy (1600213)

              How would you know if they are inflating prices?

              I think a book with the price that is higher than the paper copy of the same is one good indication.

              That is the state the market is in now, there is no monopoly, and Amazon wants to lower prices. So that is certainly not an indication that a monopoly exists.

  • I don't understand why they are suing Amazon -- isn't it only the publishers that decide whether or not a book can be sold without DRM?

    Amazon may very well have preferred pricing deals with some publishers (perhaps in part because they do support DRM), but it's still the publishers that are requiring DRM, not Amazon.

    My Kindle reads non-DRM files in MOBI format just fine, so if the independents want to sell non-DRM files for Kindle customers, they can.

    • I think the point is that they would like to be able to sell the books as well, but the publishers have entered into a DRM related agreement with the vendors that lock other vendors out of the market. The publishers might be requiring the DRM, but if they are requiring Amazon DRM, then nobody else gets to play.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        I think the point is that they would like to be able to sell the books as well, but the publishers have entered into a DRM related agreement with the vendors that lock other vendors out of the market. The publishers might be requiring the DRM, but if they are requiring Amazon DRM, then nobody else gets to play.

        Sure, but why sue Amazon if it's the publishers that are setting DRM policy? That seems kind of like suing Exxon because the major car manufacturers require Exxon gas - Exxon may have paid GM a lot of money for that exclusive deal, but GM wasn't forced to accept the offer.

        Amazon and Barnes and Noble seem to have a comparable book catalog, so it seems that publishers are happy to sell to anyone as long as they can enforce DRM.

    • I don't understand why they are suing Amazon -- isn't it only the publishers that decide whether or not a book can be sold without DRM?

      Amazon may very well have preferred pricing deals with some publishers (perhaps in part because they do support DRM), but it's still the publishers that are requiring DRM, not Amazon.

      My Kindle reads non-DRM files in MOBI format just fine, so if the independents want to sell non-DRM files for Kindle customers, they can.

      While Amazon lets publishers publish without DRM, they have no reason to encourage it-- locking people into the Kindle format is great for them. Apple is an anomaly because they're a hardware company-- they use the books and music to sell devices, while Amazon, Kobo, and B&N use the devices to sell books. Yes, Apple would like to have you buy everything from iBooks because they'll make more, but you can get free Amazon, Kobo, and Nook apps for your Apple devices, allowing you to read everything on the

  • by OhPlz (168413) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:50PM (#42974451)

    I don't see what DRM has to do with this. I would think that file formats are the issue. Kindles can read raw .mobi files among other formats. I assume other e-readers can do the same. I don't know of a single reader that ONLY supports DRM content. It could be onerous for an independent to support a ton of different formats, but I don't see what barrier optional DRM creates.

    Even if they somehow get to argue this in court, Amazon has an out. I've seen material lately on their site that is marked "At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software applied." Look up "Bowl of Heaven" as an example.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I don't see what DRM has to do with this. I would think that file formats are the issue. Kindles can read raw .mobi files among other formats.

      How did you get this so very wrong? It's not about whether Kindles can read other publishers' formats, it's about whether other eBook readers can read Kindle titles. They fear Microsoft-esque lock-in. History tells us that this is a valid concern.

      • by OhPlz (168413)

        If that's true, then the courts show throw the case out. The courts shouldn't be hearing cases that hinge on hypothetical future crimes. If anything, this would be a matter for the legislature.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          It's called anticompetitive behavior, and it's a case for courts today. Amazon has a de facto position as the market leader and as such they can reasonably be found by a court to have certain responsibilities, like not forcing lock-in. At least, in theory. Microsoft never had an actual monopoly either.

          • by OhPlz (168413)

            How much money was wasted on the Microsoft trial, and what, if anything, was actually accomplished?

            This is a problem for the market. iTunes had a similar issue with music until Amazon started selling tracks without DRM and charging less for them. This isn't a monopoly situation, this a ripe opportunity for competition.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              How much money was wasted on the Microsoft trial, and what, if anything, was actually accomplished?

              The money was wasted by Bush through Ashcroft. If not for that one fact, it would have been time well spent; we could have taken the money back from BillyG and paid down the deficit with it, or spent it on infrastructure improvements, or bought every citizen hookers and blow.

    • by DdJ (10790)

      Do not forget that many people in this industry take it for granted that there must be DRM, or nothing can work.

  • by tuppe666 (904118) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:57PM (#42974499)

    ...that were in a cartel with these very same publishers who had sided with Apple against Amazon http://www.policymic.com/articles/6812/apple-founder-steve-jobs-leader-of-ebook-price-fixing-cartel [policymic.com] that Steve Jobs what a player. I love the quote from the article on this "a move that was widely seen as benefiting Amazon's dominant position among ebook retailers"..clearly not the best understanding that, the move would simply shift the scale to Apple, and making it impossible for independent vendors to compete on price.

    I actually agree with the reality that books need to be transferable [and films, magazines...oh and Applications hell anything stored on a computer with a price tag attached.]...so that the better technology competes. In fact lets go further I see no reason at all why you can't have multiple store fronts on every device you own...like say Android :)

  • It is every corporation's mission statement to influence enough of it's market to be considered monopolithic. It is every government's duty to responsibly regulate the market to protect their citizens from unjust corporate influence. I don't know what everyone's worried about... surely this'll get sorted right out.

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