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Did You Get Dirty Money Too? The Ebooks Antitrust Settlement

Did You Get Dirty Money Too? The Ebooks Antitrust Settlement

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March 25, 2014

I got money this morning. It was sickening. And you may have gotten money from the same toxic source.

You see, this money wasn’t earned or freely given: it was squeezed out of producers and given to consumers by those who think that producers exist to serve consumers —and who condemned these producers for banding together against a company that was serving its customers well, but which these producers feared was destroying their businesses .

Yes, this morning I received my share of the ebook antitrust settlement , which arose out of the same fight over ebook prices as the Department of Justice’s antitrust case against Apple . State attorneys general and class-action lawyers forced the five major publishers to pay from 73 cents to $3.93 per ebook to people who bought Amazon Kindle ebooks between April 1, 2010, and May 21, 2012. My share: $7.30 in Amazon credit to be spent on books and ebooks—even ebooks published directly by authors using Amazon’s technology.

That last part especially twists the knife in the publishers. You see, a major  threat Amazon represented to the publishers was that as customers got used to buying Kindle ebooks instead of hardcovers and paperbacks, it would become easier for authors to reach readers without working with publishers. The major publishers might become obsolete and go out of business. But this shift in the book business was made possible in part by Amazon’s ability to sell the major publishers’ ebooks at low prices in order to tempt consumers to buy Kindle readers and start reading ebooks instead of bound books. That’s why the publishers wanted to raise ebook prices: to protect the hardcover market, where self-publishing is harder. And now money has been taken from the publishers and given to consumers to spend not only on the publishers’ books, but on self-published ebooks.

I don’t mean to knock the self-publishing revolution. I’m part of it: I’ve been involved in publishing more than half a dozen books without major publishers, including The Atlas Society’s Myths about Ayn Rand , The Republican Party’s Civil War , and Rich-Hunt . But the ebook antitrust cases were brought against the publishers, the losers in this revolution, because they tried to get out of helping it along. They’ve been struggling to survive, but antitrust law is forcing them to work for their own destruction.

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