The federal judge in the e-book price-fixing case against Apple and book publishers who haven’t settled out of court has set a trial date of June 3, 2013, Bloomberg reports. Of the five publishers originally charged, only Macmillan and Penguin remain after CBS Corp’s Simon & Schuster, Hachette and News Corp’s HarperCollins agreed to settle out of court after the government filed suit April 11. Settlements between the three publishers and all 50 states are slated to be finalized August 10. Feds have stepped up enforcement against price-fixing in other industries as well and have increased scrutiny of Apple’s digital publishing, mobile computing and music retail businesses to make sure company hasn’t thwarted competition.
The idea is starting to catch on, and is sure to be front and center next week in New York at BookExpo America, the largest book industry event in North America. The thinking is that it’s relatively easy for studios to turn publishing into a useful sideline in the e-book era. At the most basic level, they can sell scripts from films or TV shows the way Warner Bros will with its just-launched “Inside the Script” publishing initiative. It will begin by selling e-books of scripts for Casablanca, Ben-Hur, An American In Paris, and North By Northwest. But there’s no need to stop there. “Why shouldn’t every Seinfeld episode be an e-book?” asks Mike Shatzkin, CEO of The Idea Logical Company, a publishing consulting firm. The next step is to follow in the footsteps of NBC Publishing, the operation NBC News announced in January to create print and e-books based on news stories and just about anything that comes from NBCUniversal. Last year, ABC introduced a Video Bookstore that offers multimedia publications for iPads. But studios have the cash, connections, and marketing muscle to do much more. They could cut out traditional publishers and sign deals with authors that blend book and movie rights. They also could commission writers to put out novelized versions of movies or TV series. Shatzkin, for one, says he plans to hit Hollywood this month to gauge studios’ interest in developing e-book strategies …
The suit was filed at the federal district court in New York and alleges that Apple conspired with Hachette, News Corp’s HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and CBS’ Simon & Schuster to limit competition — thereby keeping e-book pricing artificially high. But this may be a prelude to the announcement of a settlement: the Justice Department said that it will unveil an “unspecified” antitrust settlement today, Bloomberg reports. Word of the federal investigation into e-book pricing leaked last month. Officials were interested in a series of events that took place around 2010 when Apple introduced its iPad. Book publishers allegedly wanted to end Amazon’s practice of selling e-books for a deeply discounted $9.99, part of the company’s strategy to promote sales of its Kindle e-readers. Hoping to loosen Amazon’s grip on the market, and help its new iPad, Apple encouraged publishers to stop selling books wholesale — which enabled retailers to set the selling price– and to adopt a so-called “agency model.” That empowers publishers to set the sales price, and pay retailers a fee of about 30%. The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he told publishers “the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want any way.” He added that publishers “went to Amazon and said, ‘You’re going to sign an agency contract or we’re not going to give you the books.’” Publishers denied that they conspired …
Just ahead of the planned early April launch of Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s full Pottermore site for all things Hogwarts, e-book and audio book versions of all seven Harry Potter books were made available today on the site. This is the first time the Potter books are available in digital formats. So far only the US and UK versions of the phenomenally successful book series are being offered. French, Italian, German and Spanish editions are due soon. Priced at $7.99-$9.99 for e-books, $29.99-$44.99 for audio editions, the digital editions are only available through the Pottermore site. They are compatible with Apple’s iPad/iPod line, Amazon’s Kindle, Google’s Play, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Sony’s Reader and other major e-readers. Although the multi-billion-dollar Harry Potter film franchise was produced and distributed by Warner Bros., the e-book store on Pottermore is a collaboration with Sony. The full but long-delayed Pottermore site will feature an online Potter encyclopedia, social networking opportunities, games and an even more robust online store.
It could be a fascinating anti-trust case according the details reported by The Wall Street Journal. The paper says that the Justice Department is gearing up to sue Apple and five top publishers — Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin Group, Macmillan, and HarperCollins — for conspiring to fix e-book prices around 2010 when the tech company introduced its iPad. The group allegedly wanted to end Amazon’s practice of selling e-books for a deeply discounted $9.99, part of the company’s strategy to promote sales of its Kindle e-readers. Hoping to loosen Amazon’s grip on the market, and help its new iPad, Apple encouraged publishers to stop selling books wholesale — which enabled retailers to set the selling price– and to adopt a so-called “agency model.” That empowers publishers to set the sales price, and pay retailers a fee of about 30%. The late Apple CEO Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he told publishers “the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want any way.” He added that
(June 27, 2011)— The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., the largest English-language trade book publisher, announced today a new joint venture with POLITICO, the leading source for political news, to publish a series of four instant digital books on the 2012 Presidential Election. The books, which will be available exclusively in electronic form, to be published starting this fall, will give readers an unprecedented look behind the scenes of the election in real time, providing detail, color, in-depth analysis beyond the hourly headlines and commentary, and ultimately a look at the final results, and how and why it all happened.
The as-yet-untitled series will be reported and written by Mike Allen, POLITICO’s chief White House Correspondent and author of the renowned daily tip-sheet, Playbook, and Evan Thomas, award-winning writer and author. Each book will include exclusive reporting from the campaign trail and will chronicle the campaign as it unfolds.
In what seemed an inevitable move once it fell behind on vendor payments, the brick and mortar bookseller Borders officially filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy today as management attempts to figure out a way to keep afloat the Borders and Waldenbook chains. Its first move will be to close 30% of its stores. It doesn’t seem that different from woes of Blockbuster, another retail system eclipsed by upstart rivals like Netflix and Redbox that embraced technological changes that have hobbled businesses that require real estate and manpower costs. Apple’s announcement that it will streamline digital subscriptions of print magazines to its iPad and other devices seems another step toward rendering the traditional newsstand an anachronism, eventually removing another staple of bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. While the Apple deal still has to be figured out–the company is demanding 30% of subscription revenue, magazine publishers are howling about it and consumers are going to want an e-book level discount for a product cheaper to produce because of no paper costs–the walls are closing in on brick and mortar set. Even to a paper purist like myself, the notion of lugging around a heavy copy of Keith Richards’ Life, or the Vanity Fair Hollywood issue when both can exist on the same lightweight gizmo has made me reconsider, the way many drivers stopped driving stick shift when automatic transmissions became commonplace.
Here is the official word which Borders has posted on its …
BREAKING: The stand-off between Random House and lit agent Andrew Wylie is over, and it looks like the agent has blinked. Here is the statement just issued by Wylie and Markus Dohle, Random House chairman/CEO. You’ll recall that RH disclosed it would view Wylie as a competitor and freeze him out after the agent formed Odyssey Editions to publish e-books of the authors whose estates he reps.
The Wylie Agency – Random House Joint Press Statement
August 24, 2010
“We are pleased to announce that The Wylie Agency and Random House have resolved our differences over the disputed Random House titles which have been included in the Odyssey Editions e-book publishing program. These titles are being removed from that program and taken off-sale. We have agreed that Random House shall be the exclusive e-book publisher of these titles for those territories in which Random House U.S. controls their rights. The titles soon will be available for sale on a non-exclusive basis through all of Random House’s current e-book customers. Random House is resuming normal business relations with the Wylie Agency for English-language manuscript submissions and potential acquisitions, and we both are glad to be able to put this matter behind us.”
— Markus Dohle, Chairman & CEO, Random House
Andrew Wylie, President, The Wylie Agency LLC
The Wylie Agency’s e-book exclusivity dispute with the publishing industry continues to dominate. (Random House vs Agents On E-Books) Everyone’s got a different opinion about Andrew Wylie’s decision to start his own imprint and broker an exclusive e-book deal with Amazon. While Wylie’s actions led the Random House Publishing Group to view him as a competitor and not do business with him, his maverick move has given leverage to agents all over the lit landscape right now, one dealmaker just told me. “Publisher contract divisions are starting to acknowledge that the e-book author-house percentages are changing. They are verbally promising and writing into contracts clauses that say these percentages will be revisited when the books are published.” Now the American Booksellers Association, the guardian angel of the independent booksellers, just weighed in via their Bookselling This Week weekly membership newsletter:
Last week’s news of literary agent Andrew Wylie’s exclusive agreement with Amazon.com to publish Kindle editions of 20 backlist titles by notable writers represented by Wylie provoked strong reactions among some major publishers and elicited extensive industry discussion regarding the implications of this potential disintermediation. On Wednesday, July 21, Wylie announced the launch of Odyssey Editions and its exclusive deal with Amazon.com. Under the agreement, backlist titles by such contemporary authors as John Updike, Louise Erdrich, and Saul Bellow would be available for the first time as e-books,
Amazon.com is crowing that for the first time, its e-book sales volume has surpassed hardcovers. Am I the only one who sees this as an apocalyptic sign for the great pleasure of book reading? Amazon’s basing its assertion on sales figures for the last three months, when buyers were lining their Amazon Kindles with summer beach reading. Amazon chief Jeffrey Bezos marvels that the milestone is more remarkable given that Amazon has only been selling e-books 33 months, as opposed to the 15 years it has been moving hardcovers. A report on the milestone in The New York Times indicates that within the next decade, less than 25% of books sold will be in print.
The lure of e-books is easy to understand: with no trees killed, books come cheaper to consumers, who no longer have to lug around hardcovers when an entire library can be loaded into a single lightweight device. On the cost front, I wonder what will happen when the makers of Kindle and other devices corner the publishing market and are no longer interested in selling its software at loss leader prices so that it can move hardware. That confrontation is inevitable, when more brick and mortar stores vanish.
My biggest problem–and the reason I’ll always stick to print books–is that I think the entire experience of reading a books is cheapened by technology, same as it was in …