While publishers have been publicly silent on the prospect that the Department of Justice may file suit against Penguin, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and HarperCollins along with Apple charging them with colluding to raise the price of e-books, Authors Guild president Scott Turow has posted a letter to members giving voice to what the houses are likely feeling. Turow called the prospect of an antitrust suit, “grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.”
He said that given Amazon’s strategy of using e-book discounting “to destroy bookselling,” “any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple’s offer” to move to the agency model as a way to maintain a viable bookstore sector. Bookstores, Turow noted “are critical to modern bookselling. Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online. Publishing shouldn’t have to choose between bricks and clicks. A robust book marketplace demands both bookstore showrooms to properly display new titles and online distribution for the convenience of customers.”
The adoption of the agency model, Turow contends, has indeed been good for consumers, allowing for more competition in the e-bookselling market, the introduction of more digital reading devices and an improving indie bookstore market. “Direct-selling authors have also benefited,” Turow said, “as Amazon more than doubled its royalty rates in the face of competition.”
He urged the DoJ to reconsider its idea of filing suit, noting that “the irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.”
Read all of Turow's letter here.