The Justice Department could reach a settlement in the next few weeks with Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and some of the major publishers suspected of colluding to push up electronic book prices, according to two people close to the negotiations.
I started reading ebooks in 2006. I mainly shopped at Fictionwise because they offered micropay rewards and discounts if you were a member. Before agency pricing, I’d bought around 400 ebooks. When the agency model was adopted by publishers, Fictionwise was left standing in the wind. Well, it looks like the agency model introduced by Apple, Inc is about to be struck down and hip hip hooray for that.
Everybody is watching this case because the result of this agency model being struck down is sure to shake things up. It can only mean good things for consumers, lower prices for one, but for bookstores and publishers, they have to contend with Amazon and the return of the $9.99 ebook that they hate so much. The consensus is that some of these folks aren’t going to make it. The economic landscape is rapidly changing. Yesterday it was announced that Best Buy is closing 50 of their stores to re-structure. During my meetings at work, it’s been told to us that e-commerce is the next big thing.
I can tell you that my buying habits have changed dramatically. Starting with books, I no longer shop at Barnes and Noble or any brick and mortar for that matter. I buy digital books almost exclusively now. Clothes and shoes: I recently discovered Zappos and The Banana Republic. Easier to find the clothes that I like online (you know, the long pants with the flare at the bottom? to go with my nice looking comfortable shoes.
Free shipping with these stores and no line and no hassles. I’m saving gas by ordering a lot of these items online too (speaking of gas prices they are hovering around $3.85 per gallon for regular). At the same time, I don’t want these bookstores to go out of business. Yet, my buying habits along with others are contributing to their demise.
What can be done about it? We prefer the cheapest price that can be found. That’s just a fact of life. Every once in a great while, I’d visit my favorite mystery bookstore and pay full sticker price for a hardback book by a favorite writer (usually signed) just so that I can do my part to keep them in business. But I’ve stopped doing this. The chips will just have to fall where they may. Publishers were wrong in increasing the prices of ebooks just because they didn’t care for the format. For me it’s never been paper vs. digital.
I just care to read books in the format of my choice and that happens to be ebooks. I don’t miss the feel of a real book or the smell of one either. I just care for the content. Okay, I’m starting to slide into another area so, wrapping up: I’m looking forward to the day when agency pricing is struck down. It should never have happened. Everybody loved Steve Jobs and there’s a lot about him to praise but he was the one who introduced the agency model and that legacy will be forever tied to his name.