An unsettling settlement
I recently wrote about Judge Cote approving a settlement agreement between 49 states, four additional American entities, and three publishers over the Agency Model pricing structure.
The basic idea in this civil action is that the three settling publishers (HarperCollins, Hachette, Simon & Schuster) damaged consumers by colluding (along with two other publishers and Apple…those have not settled yet) to raise e-book prices.
As I understand it, that’s how a civil suit works: someone is damaged, and someone else is found to be at fault and forced to “make right the wrong”.
That’s different from a criminal case. The criminal has broken a law, and is going to be punished…there isn’t necessarily a specific individual or other entity that has been damaged a certain amount. When you are speeding, you aren’t damaging another person. If you run over somebody’s petunias, they’ve suffered a specific loss. Speeding is criminal…running over the petunias would be civil.
So, the basic result of this suit is that consumers will get recompensed for the higher prices they paid…I’d be surprised if anybody got as much as $20, although it’s certainly possible.
That’s the way it works.
I want to thank regular reader and commenter Lady Galaxy for crystallizing my thoughts on this with a generous and wise comment.
In a comment on the above post about the settlement, Lady Galaxy said that essentially that getting the cash wouldn’t be the best result…buying the books at that price had been a choice. If that cash does come, Lady Galaxy would donate it to a library (you can read more of the details in the comment).
I thought that was very insightful.
Let’s say that someone bought a book for $12.99 that “should have been” $9.99.
Is that the person who was most damaged by the Agency Model?
I would guess that many (perhaps the majority) didn’t even know there was an Agency Model, didn’t even realize that prices were higher than they had been.
They were willing to pay $12.99 for the book…I respect that consumers can make an intelligent decision on that.
What about the people who decided that they couldn’t afford the book at $12.99? Weren’t they injured more?
Is getting a check for $3 (which may have cost more than that to process and send) going to make you feel satisfied?
I know…that’s the system. The directly injured person is recompensed, the indirectly injured person gets nothing.
The settlement is for $69 million dollars.
Just fantasizing, wouldn’t it be nice if that money could go to help people get books who couldn’t afford them?
Civil suits don’t punish, and aren’t really about the future, but if they were…
Let’s say they take that $69 million and donate it to Project Gutenberg to help digitize public domain books?
Honestly, I’d be a lot happier with that.
That wouldn’t really hurt the publishers…the public already owns those books. One could argue that having more public domain freebies available would hurt sales of current books, I suppose.
What if they were compelled to improve their deals (when they even have them) with public libraries?
None of that’s going to happen…I’m sure people will get checks.
Those same three publishers have settled with the Department of Justice in a separate action.
The two publishers (Penguin, Macmillan) and Apple, who haven’t? They may eventually be subject to criminal penalties…or, they could win, and owe nothing.
Two asides to people who have recently commented.
In a private comment, a reader urged me to write something for the KFHD (Kindle Fire HD). I am considering that. I’ve been working a lot, and I may have some “writing days” coming up as a result. There’s another book I want to finish before I do something else.
I think I wouldn’t do something as…formal as Love Your Kindle Fire. I may do something and introduce it at ninety-nine cents. There are lots of differences between the KFHD and the KF1 (Kindle Fire 1st Generation), and some of them are non-intuitive. For example, I got to listen to the new text-to-speech (TTS) today on a commute…I was impressed! It’s the Ivona software, and I think it is the Salli voice.
The surprising thing was that turning the KFHD from portrait (taller than it is wide) to landscape (wider than it was tall) stopped the TTS. That was disconcerting at first, but I can really see the value. If someone walks in when you are listening to something… embarrassing, perhaps, you can stop it quickly. :)
You can lock the rotation so it doesn’t turn off, if you want…swipe down from the top, and you can tap the “Unlocked” icon to make it “Locked”.
So, I appreciate your encouragement, reader, and I’ll certainly think about it.
As to the other comment…
That person wanted me to post it (or at least, didn’t say it was private).
I’m not going to do that.
It was really basically an ad…it linked to their own blog. I’ll sometimes allow that if I think it’s just an interesting article that would interest my readers.
However, the comment was partially this:
“Why not strip the drm, then you can read the ebooks anywhere any without limitaion.”
The answer for me is, because I believe it is likely to be illegal.
I don’t typically promote activity I believe to be illegal.
On top of that, the author made the deal with the publisher, and the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) protected DRM (Digital Rights Management) was part of that understanding.
While the author might prefer that there be no DRM, and I believe it disrespects the author to strip that. The author might have gotten more money if the book was being released without DRM, since that might, hypothetically, reduce the sales…meaning that the publisher pays a higher royalty to make up for that.
So for me, that’s why.
Some major publishers are releasing books without DRM…that’s a different story.
Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think. Is giving money to consumers who paid a higher price due to the Agency Model the right action? If the non-settling publishers lose their case, what would you like their punishment to be? Are you fine with stripping DRM? Should I write something on the KFHD? If I do, how do I handle the multiple models in that line? You can comment on this post…if you’d like it to be private, please say so in the post.
Thanks again to Lady Galaxy!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.