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Subject: Another example of Gov't making your life worse. Just leave us alone!!!!! rss

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I don't have an e-reader yet. If you read the article I will link to in full you'll see why. For the time being any ebooks I own I buy and download to my phone and I have not paid more than $1.99 for an ebook. I can buy almost any book I want used at any of a dozen locations locally for between $1-5 so long as I'm willing to wait for the fervor to die down. I can also obtain any current bestseller illegally if I want to read it on my laptop. So far I haven't wanted to read anything so bad that I'd steal it.

Recently the DoJ told a bunch of publishers they had to stop colluding to make ebooks cost more. The publishers were pissed at Amazon's "sell it at a loss" strategy which helped them snag 90% of the market. So they kind of, sort of, maybe broke the law by having a few meals together and doing a little price-setting. The DoJ told them no-no. But it's complicated because while some publishers say that the agreement (called agency pricing) will help both ebooks and print books other people say it's artificial and will continue to make books cost more. But the DoJ claims publishers have already "stolen" a few hundred million from readers via their price-fixing scheme.

Some authors like agency pricing, some hate it. From all I've read the people who like it are already very, very, very rich and have sold millions upon millions of print books. Seems like the folks who desire the market to find it's own price point are the people who want to sell millions upon millions of books, but haven't. Here's a recent story on the issue:

What a mess!

Honestly? This won't make a difference to the struggling author. he or she can still sell their book electronically on Amazon. B&N, iBook, etc, for whatever price they want and pay the 30% or so for the privilege. But it does affect both authors and consumers of more established material. I don't think it matters one way or the other for someone like George RR Martin. He's gonna make millions even if his ebooks are $12.99 rather than $5.99. right? And I'm not gonna pay $13 for an eBook when I can buy his latest book used, in hardcover, for under $10.

My choice doesn't affect his income unless you want to argue he's losing something by not getting a royalty each time a physical copy changes hands. But it's my book once I pay for it and I see no reason to give George anything extra. That would be crazy, it'd be like giving a game publisher a royalty every time you sold or traded a used game.

Which brings us to what you cannot do with ebooks, so far. You can't sell them or trade them. There is a limited "lending" feature I believe with the Nook and possibly the Kindle now. But it's not as if you have the same freedom of choice with an eBook you do with a physical book. So why would you pay the same, or higher, price for something you can't sell, trade or give away as you would for the exact same thing you can do with as you please? The DoJ doesn't address this, they are just wading in and trying to enforce some sort of market justice on publishers and frankly, I think nobody will win.

It's my view that ebooks ought to cost less so long as they don't offer the same after-sale choices as physical books. Pretty much every story I've read addresses the supposed price-fixing, or the vested interests of the successful authors, or assumes that people who willingly paid higher prices were ripped off or deceived. I call BS on all that. People who paid $12.99 for an ebook didn't mind paying that amount, so why is the DoJ involved? It's not like I was denied anything because I chose to not pay the $12.99, right?

But that seems to be the government's case - it's as if they have decided there are victims where frankly, no victims exist. Why is the DoJ involved? I'm not a victim of Harper-Collins. They made a choice and I made a choice. That's pretty straight forward. If they see the market change down the road and decide lowering prices is the path to retaining market share or capturing new share then they would capture some of my business. Hell, if they (and the other supposedly criminal publishing enterprises) got together with Amazon, B&N and Apple and tweaked the electronic format to allow for unrestricted gifting, trading and selling of ebooks then the $12.99 might not be a problem for me on some titles.

Overall though I see the DoJ intervention as inadvertently damaging what they supposedly say they're protecting - consumers. But like I said, it's complicated. I am currently of the opinion that the gov't ought to back out and let the marketplace sort this out over the next few years. Nobody is being hurt. Nobody is losing anything. In fact, even with the agency pricing scheme electronic book retailers are still offering tens of thousands of titles cheaply from both established authors as well as those working to eke out a readership.

Did I miss something here?
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This seems a clear case of price fixing. Are you asking why price fixing is bad (in this particular instance)? Price-fixing is essentially bad for the same reason free markets are generally good.

I don't really see how the DoJ is hurting any customers. People who want the transferability tech are still going to be an untapped market, and an even more important one if the companies are restricted in how much they can realistically make from the current market.
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So, you want to get rid of all anti-competitive laws, or just this one as it applies to e-books only?
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Drew1365 wrote:
DWTripp wrote:
Did I miss something here?


Nope. The publishing business is very cut-throat, and I detect the foul stench of lobbyists using the government as mercenaries here.


Which lobby is interested in keeping the price of e-books low?
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DWTripp wrote:


Did I miss something here?


Well instead of using an anecdotal blurb as an anti-government plea, instead just tell us you don't believe the laws on the books that are enforced to keep price fixing practices at bay are good for the economy.

Why is the DoJ involved? Well because it's their job to enforce the laws.

You don't agree with the laws as written. That I can stand behind.
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Looks like the DoJ is only involved because of the collusion. If we have a system based on competition, price fixing should not be part of it.

I'm not planning on doing anything with e-readers until they go to a non-proprietary model.
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I think this illustrates one of the weaknesses of capitalism. On one hand, you have a large conglomerate price-fixing small publishers out of the market by selling at a loss and on the other hand you have price-fixing in response by groups of publishers. Neither side is actually following market pressures, they are trying to create a market base-line that profit's themselves the most. If either side won, consumers would lose in the long run. It would be nice if consumers drove pricing in the free-market, but the only real influence they have are on price extremes. Actions on the part of the two sides of this issue attempt to set the consumers idea of what is a good price, instead of the other way around.
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DWTripp wrote:
I don't have an e-reader yet. If you read the article I will link to in full you'll see why. For the time being any ebooks I own I buy and download to my phone and I have not paid more than $1.99 for an ebook. I can buy almost any book I want used at any of a dozen locations locally for between $1-5 so long as I'm willing to wait for the fervor to die down. I can also obtain any current bestseller illegally if I want to read it on my laptop. So far I haven't wanted to read anything so bad that I'd steal it.

Recently the DoJ told a bunch of publishers they had to stop colluding to make ebooks cost more. The publishers were pissed at Amazon's "sell it at a loss" strategy which helped them snag 90% of the market. So they kind of, sort of, maybe broke the law by having a few meals together and doing a little price-setting. The DoJ told them no-no. But it's complicated because while some publishers say that the agreement (called agency pricing) will help both ebooks and print books other people say it's artificial and will continue to make books cost more. But the DoJ claims publishers have already "stolen" a few hundred million from readers via their price-fixing scheme.

Some authors like agency pricing, some hate it. From all I've read the people who like it are already very, very, very rich and have sold millions upon millions of print books. Seems like the folks who desire the market to find it's own price point are the people who want to sell millions upon millions of books, but haven't. Here's a recent story on the issue:

What a mess!

Honestly? This won't make a difference to the struggling author. he or she can still sell their book electronically on Amazon. B&N, iBook, etc, for whatever price they want and pay the 30% or so for the privilege. But it does affect both authors and consumers of more established material. I don't think it matters one way or the other for someone like George RR Martin. He's gonna make millions even if his ebooks are $12.99 rather than $5.99. right? And I'm not gonna pay $13 for an eBook when I can buy his latest book used, in hardcover, for under $10.

My choice doesn't affect his income unless you want to argue he's losing something by not getting a royalty each time a physical copy changes hands. But it's my book once I pay for it and I see no reason to give George anything extra. That would be crazy, it'd be like giving a game publisher a royalty every time you sold or traded a used game.

Which brings us to what you cannot do with ebooks, so far. You can't sell them or trade them. There is a limited "lending" feature I believe with the Nook and possibly the Kindle now. But it's not as if you have the same freedom of choice with an eBook you do with a physical book. So why would you pay the same, or higher, price for something you can't sell, trade or give away as you would for the exact same thing you can do with as you please? The DoJ doesn't address this, they are just wading in and trying to enforce some sort of market justice on publishers and frankly, I think nobody will win.

It's my view that ebooks ought to cost less so long as they don't offer the same after-sale choices as physical books. Pretty much every story I've read addresses the supposed price-fixing, or the vested interests of the successful authors, or assumes that people who willingly paid higher prices were ripped off or deceived. I call BS on all that. People who paid $12.99 for an ebook didn't mind paying that amount, so why is the DoJ involved? It's not like I was denied anything because I chose to not pay the $12.99, right?

But that seems to be the government's case - it's as if they have decided there are victims where frankly, no victims exist. Why is the DoJ involved? I'm not a victim of Harper-Collins. They made a choice and I made a choice. That's pretty straight forward. If they see the market change down the road and decide lowering prices is the path to retaining market share or capturing new share then they would capture some of my business. Hell, if they (and the other supposedly criminal publishing enterprises) got together with Amazon, B&N and Apple and tweaked the electronic format to allow for unrestricted gifting, trading and selling of ebooks then the $12.99 might not be a problem for me on some titles.

Overall though I see the DoJ intervention as inadvertently damaging what they supposedly say they're protecting - consumers. But like I said, it's complicated. I am currently of the opinion that the gov't ought to back out and let the marketplace sort this out over the next few years. Nobody is being hurt. Nobody is losing anything. In fact, even with the agency pricing scheme electronic book retailers are still offering tens of thousands of titles cheaply from both established authors as well as those working to eke out a readership.

Did I miss something here?


What you missed here could fill an e-book. Tripp you being a free market capitalist I have a question for you... can you tell me another time when MORE competition (i.e. Apple entering the e-book distribution market) led to increased prices for consumers? Isn't it supposed to work the other way?

Apple and the publisher colluded to fix prices. There is no doubt about it and the DoJ is absolutely justified in going after them.

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Drew1365 wrote:

It's not about that. It's about sending the government after your competitors.


Or is it about protecting customers from unfair pricing strategies.

Sooner or later a competition commission will look at Amazon's strategy too.
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TheChin! wrote:
I think this illustrates one of the weaknesses of capitalism. On one hand, you have a large conglomerate price-fixing small publishers out of the market by selling at a loss and on the other hand you have price-fixing in response by groups of publishers. Neither side is actually following market pressures, they are trying to create a market base-line that profit's themselves the most. If either side won, consumers would lose in the long run. It would be nice if consumers drove pricing in the free-market, but the only real influence they have are on price extremes. Actions on the part of the two sides of this issue attempt to set the consumers idea of what is a good price, instead of the other way around.


The real problem here is that they didn't go after Amazon, too. I thought selling at a huge loss to price upstart competition out of business was illegal.
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monkeyhandz wrote:
Drew1365 wrote:

It's not about that. It's about sending the government after your competitors.


Or is it about protecting customers from unfair pricing strategies.

Sooner or later a competition commission will look at Amazon's strategy too.


Don't hold your breath on that. A couple of very large campaign donations will make them suddenly forget about Amazon.
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Quote:
If either side won, consumers would lose in the long run. It would be nice if consumers drove pricing in the free-market, but the only real influence they have are on price extremes. Actions on the part of the two sides of this issue attempt to set the consumers idea of what is a good price, instead of the other way around.


TheChin! is close here to what I see. He says it's a weakness of capitalism and I see it more as a soft spot in the free market that an over-active government agency can exploit.

As for Drew's notion of lobbying, I have read other articles that allude to Bezos being involved in siccing the DoJ on the publishers who arguably were just fighting back against Amazon's early domination. But again, who are the victims that the DoJ is protecting here? In addition, I agree that the DoJ case is weak. A similar thing happened about a dozen years ago in the game industry when Games Workshop changed it's contract for retailers. There was (I believe) an actual lawsuit filed against them alleging similar crimes that the DoJ says the publishers committed. As I recall it went nowhere because it's not really a crime to sell a product with restrictions on how it will be priced at market.

So again, who are the victims?
 
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DWTripp wrote:
Quote:
If either side won, consumers would lose in the long run. It would be nice if consumers drove pricing in the free-market, but the only real influence they have are on price extremes. Actions on the part of the two sides of this issue attempt to set the consumers idea of what is a good price, instead of the other way around.


TheChin! is close here to what I see. He says it's a weakness of capitalism and I see it more as a soft spot in the free market that an over-active government agency can exploit.

As for Drew's notion of lobbying, I have read other articles that allude to Bezos being involved in siccing the DoJ on the publishers who arguably were just fighting back against Amazon's early domination. But again, who are the victims that the DoJ is protecting here? In addition, I agree that the DoJ case is weak. A similar thing happened about a dozen years ago in the game industry when Games Workshop changed it's contract for retailers. There was (I believe) an actual lawsuit filed against them alleging similar crimes that the DoJ says the publishers committed. As I recall it went nowhere because it's not really a crime to sell a product with restrictions on how it will be priced at market.

So again, who are the victims?


We would be, after all it will mean higher prices for us if it fails. Me I say have an RRP that no one is (under penatly of catapult) allowed to sell for less then.

I am not being told what to do by the government, they are saying what I would. Don't proce fiox to make things expensive, but then I live in rip off britian.
 
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ejmowrer wrote:
monkeyhandz wrote:
Drew1365 wrote:

It's not about that. It's about sending the government after your competitors.


Or is it about protecting customers from unfair pricing strategies.

Sooner or later a competition commission will look at Amazon's strategy too.


Don't hold your breath on that. A couple of very large campaign donations will make them suddenly forget about Amazon.


While poor Apple can't afford their own lobbyists?
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ejmowrer wrote:
TheChin! wrote:
I think this illustrates one of the weaknesses of capitalism. On one hand, you have a large conglomerate price-fixing small publishers out of the market by selling at a loss and on the other hand you have price-fixing in response by groups of publishers. Neither side is actually following market pressures, they are trying to create a market base-line that profit's themselves the most. If either side won, consumers would lose in the long run. It would be nice if consumers drove pricing in the free-market, but the only real influence they have are on price extremes. Actions on the part of the two sides of this issue attempt to set the consumers idea of what is a good price, instead of the other way around.


The real problem here is that they didn't go after Amazon, too. I thought selling at a huge loss to price upstart competition out of business was illegal.


Do we know Amazon is losing money on e-books?
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djgutierrez77 wrote:
ejmowrer wrote:
monkeyhandz wrote:
Drew1365 wrote:

It's not about that. It's about sending the government after your competitors.


Or is it about protecting customers from unfair pricing strategies.

Sooner or later a competition commission will look at Amazon's strategy too.


Don't hold your breath on that. A couple of very large campaign donations will make them suddenly forget about Amazon.


While poor Apple can't afford their own lobbyists?


They're probably in a too little too late situation. I doubt they'll make that mistake again. I imagine they were too busy shoving cash down the pockets of their music lobbyists.
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djgutierrez77 wrote:
ejmowrer wrote:
TheChin! wrote:
I think this illustrates one of the weaknesses of capitalism. On one hand, you have a large conglomerate price-fixing small publishers out of the market by selling at a loss and on the other hand you have price-fixing in response by groups of publishers. Neither side is actually following market pressures, they are trying to create a market base-line that profit's themselves the most. If either side won, consumers would lose in the long run. It would be nice if consumers drove pricing in the free-market, but the only real influence they have are on price extremes. Actions on the part of the two sides of this issue attempt to set the consumers idea of what is a good price, instead of the other way around.


The real problem here is that they didn't go after Amazon, too. I thought selling at a huge loss to price upstart competition out of business was illegal.


Do we know Amazon is losing money on e-books?


That's a question for The Chin! I'm just going off of what he said.
 
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Kafka wrote:


What you missed here could fill an e-book. Tripp you being a free market capitalist I have a question for you... can you tell me another time when MORE competition (i.e. Apple entering the e-book distribution market) led to increased prices for consumers? Isn't it supposed to work the other way?

Apple and the publisher colluded to fix prices. There is no doubt about it and the DoJ is absolutely justified in going after them.



Yes, I can. Magic The Gathering is an example that ought to make sense to you. I was an early retailer of MTG and as the other stores (in my area and around the country) got involved in retailing MTG the prices asked at retail skyrocketed. And it didn't matter that WotC was increasing the print run size of each expansion. Packs and decks had an MSRP but for well over a year almost every retailer sold them at a premium. Then, the marketplace did what free markets do... it corrected for reality. Prices fell to MSRP and then by the 2nd full year of the game many retailers were discounting.

I can spend the next week coming up with example after example after example of similar brief price increases despite an abundance of product. It's important to keep in mind that ebooks are endlessly abundant. My view is the DoJ ought to go away and give this a year or two more to sort out. Eventually I believe ebooks would be under $5 even for newer titles unless the demand was very, very high to "read it now!" or the author was less concerned about volume than others.

Steam is an almost perfect example. Why pay $60 for an e-game that you can buy for $19.99 in a few months or $3.99 in a year or two?
 
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Kafka wrote:

What you missed here could fill an e-book. Tripp you being a free market capitalist I have a question for you... can you tell me another time when MORE competition (i.e. Apple entering the e-book distribution market) led to increased prices for consumers? Isn't it supposed to work the other way?

This has nothing to do with more competition leading to higher prices. If there was no competition before why was Amazon selling at a loss? There was clearly competition, they were just small enough that Amazon could bully them in a price war. Once Apple entered the market selling at a loss was no longer a viable tactic.
 
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DWTripp wrote:
Yes, I can. Magic The Gathering is an example that ought to make sense to you. I was an early retailer of MTG and as the other stores (in my area and around the country) got involved in retailing MTG the prices asked at retail skyrocketed. And it didn't matter that WotC was increasing the print run size of each expansion. Packs and decks had an MSRP but for well over a year almost every retailer sold them at a premium. Then, the marketplace did what free markets do... it corrected for reality. Prices fell to MSRP and then by the 2nd full year of the game many retailers were discounting.


Your analogy is flawed because the two situations are not comparable. In the Magic instance, you have one distributor of a product (Magic cards) setting the price for the product and then resellers changed their resale prices as the market would dictate. In the ebooks instance, you have multiple distributors of a product (ebooks) colluding to set prices of their products (which, one might add, are not precisely cross-replaceable - if I want to read the latest Stephen King, there's no option but to buy the product Simon and Schuster publishes) and forbidding resellers from changing their resale prices as the market would dictate.

Arguing that abundance would solve the problem misses the point that in the ebooks market publishers who constituted the overwhelming majority of the market were colluding precisely because they knew abundance would solve the problem. That's more or less the definition of anti-competitive conduct.
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DWTripp wrote:
People who paid $12.99 for an ebook didn't mind paying that amount, so why is the DoJ involved? It's not like I was denied anything because I chose to not pay the $12.99, right?


I've seen this argument made a few times, and it kind of misses a point. And, yes, this is trotting straight into "first world problem" territory, but compare something like life-saving surgery.

Would you really argue "okay, the surgery and skill needed to do it only actually cost $10,000, but since the patient chose to go into debt for $100,000 to pay for it, all must be fair and right and there is no insurance price fixing going on because why would they be willing to pay for it if they weren't okay with that?" It's not valid, because they didn't have a choice. They NEEDED the surgery, so they had to pay whatever the price was that the provider wanted to charge, regardless of any other factors. Essentially, the service in question is holding the person hostage to whatever demands they want to make, since the person has no alternative to get out of the arrangement - they pay, or they die.

I assume you can see a problem with that?

Now, again, the "yeah, this is a first-world problem" comparison, here. eBook readers took off because they solved a problem the first-world has been "struggling" (as much as first-world workers struggle with anything) with for a while - how to take your library with you, so on your hour-long commute on the train/plane/whatever you can read from a wide selection of material. And even aside from the selection - it's a heck of a lot easier to read an e-ink page than many book printings, far easier to turn the pages, and much easier to hold in your hand. All useful things that made the format a given for adoption. And the staggering amount of freely available (public domain) classical works only aids in the argument for the platform.

All well and good - but now George RR Martin puts out a new book (yes, I know, jumping right into the realm of fantasy) or Suzanne Collins or Suzanne Collins or J. K. Rowling or maybe some tech book, and you (or your wife or your kid) now HAVE to have it* and you are tied to the eBook format, so...off you go to pay whatever they want. You don't particularly have a choice* in the matter, in order for your kid to not be an outcast at school or you to be clueless what your coworkers are all talking about, you need to pick it up.

And Amazon (et al) damn well know they have you# hostage via pop culture pressure. Not enough that they can charge you ANYTHING they want...but the cultural pressure creates enough demand that they definitely can charge more than they reasonable should. And CERTAINLY more than they reasonable could if competition could enter the market and deliver the same exact material in a different format on a different electronic platform at a lower price. (Again, we aren't talking about "they can charge ANY price"...cultural pressure only goes so far...but charging 50% more? ...maybe double the price? Sure.)

But since these companies have been colluding to prevent competition from happening...you see the problem? That people are still willing to pay this price doesn't mean that "all is well in candy land"...just that the social pressure to read a particular book within a particular time frame is high enough they can, via their collusion, charge far more for it than reasonable, as they effectively have their audience hostage*. And that's why the 'popular' titles on all these platforms STRANGELY seem to cost far more than the knockoff titles, or older or less mainstream titles.

* Yes, yes, 'first world problem', I get that...but that doesn't mean it ISN'T a problem.

# Not you, specifically, of course. But enough people so that they can rake in massive profits by pursuing this practice - millions, anyway.
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ejmowrer wrote:
djgutierrez77 wrote:
ejmowrer wrote:
TheChin! wrote:
I think this illustrates one of the weaknesses of capitalism. On one hand, you have a large conglomerate price-fixing small publishers out of the market by selling at a loss and on the other hand you have price-fixing in response by groups of publishers. Neither side is actually following market pressures, they are trying to create a market base-line that profit's themselves the most. If either side won, consumers would lose in the long run. It would be nice if consumers drove pricing in the free-market, but the only real influence they have are on price extremes. Actions on the part of the two sides of this issue attempt to set the consumers idea of what is a good price, instead of the other way around.


The real problem here is that they didn't go after Amazon, too. I thought selling at a huge loss to price upstart competition out of business was illegal.


Do we know Amazon is losing money on e-books?


That's a question for The Chin! I'm just going off of what he said.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57412587-93/why-e-books-cos...
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Greg Michealson
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TheChin! wrote:
ejmowrer wrote:
djgutierrez77 wrote:
ejmowrer wrote:
TheChin! wrote:
I think this illustrates one of the weaknesses of capitalism. On one hand, you have a large conglomerate price-fixing small publishers out of the market by selling at a loss and on the other hand you have price-fixing in response by groups of publishers. Neither side is actually following market pressures, they are trying to create a market base-line that profit's themselves the most. If either side won, consumers would lose in the long run. It would be nice if consumers drove pricing in the free-market, but the only real influence they have are on price extremes. Actions on the part of the two sides of this issue attempt to set the consumers idea of what is a good price, instead of the other way around.


The real problem here is that they didn't go after Amazon, too. I thought selling at a huge loss to price upstart competition out of business was illegal.


Do we know Amazon is losing money on e-books?


That's a question for The Chin! I'm just going off of what he said.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57412587-93/why-e-books-cos...


The only thing I see concerning Amazon selling e-books at a loss was a hypothetical example.

So for instance, for a new e-book, let's say the list price was around $24.99. Amazon paid publishers $12.50 per copy, but then turned around and sold the e-book for $9.99. They took a loss on e-book copies to help sell Kindles and to build a huge early lead in the e-book market.

So is Amazon really losing money on their e-book business?
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Drew1365 wrote:
XanderF wrote:
DWTripp wrote:
People who paid $12.99 for an ebook didn't mind paying that amount, so why is the DoJ involved? It's not like I was denied anything because I chose to not pay the $12.99, right?


I've seen this argument made a few times, and it kind of misses a point. And, yes, this is trotting straight into "first world problem" territory, but compare something like life-saving surgery. . . .


I am absolutely astounded you just compared the need for life-saving surgery to the need to read the latest popular book that everyone else is reading so you're not a social pariah.

I hope you were attempting satire.


Read the whole post instead of the first block only - I note several times that it's just an example (I picked something extreme in the hope I'd find at least something conservatives would agree with as being 'wrong' as a starting point).
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DWTripp wrote:
Did I miss something here?


Yes, I think price fixing is wrong and possibly illegal.
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