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About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

Copyfight

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March 13, 2012

Smells Like Sarcasm, Reads Like A Smackdown

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Gods I love it when someone on the inside is even more sarky and cutting than I am. This is one of those times.

In this corner, the smackers: authors Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler. In the other corner, the smackee: Scott Turow, President of the Author's Guild, and his "Grim News" blog entry.

What is this grim news? Why, it's the likelihood that the DOJ will file a collusion case against Apple and the big publishers. This is "grim news" because Mr. Turow is in charge of a big club for very big authors, which is likely to be on the receiving end of this legal case. If I was him, I'd be worried too.

You may recall I blogged about Konrath's claim that he garnered $100,000 in profits from his e-books in January of this year. Obviously he's someone heavily invested in Amazon's publishing model and as we discussed, he's also someone who pays careful attention to prices and how an author can maximize income by carefully discounting and tracking the effects of deals on sales. The agency model for pricing, which is at the heart of the collusion case, is just about the opposite of that - it handcuffs retailers and gives pricing power to the agency partners - the aforementioned big publishers. You can imagine this as being the digital equivalent of a poke in the eye for guys like Konrath and Eisler, and they have some choice words in response.

In a blog entry titled "Barry, Joe, & Scott Turow" they go line-by-line through Turow's dire news and translate it into more or less plain-speaking English. For example, where Turow sees Amazon "destroy bookselling" they point out that lowering prices tends to increase sales and in general selling more books is (should be) what publishing is about. They go on at some length - you should read it for yourself. They're pretty contemptuous not just of Turow and his blog post, but of the whole big-house/big-author publishing business and its failures to anticipate, react, or adapt to the sea changes introduced by self-publishing and e-books.

As noted, Konrath and Eisler have a lot of skin in this game and their biases show heavily. They act as if Amazon has done no wrong and gloss over or ignore a lot of bad history. For example, I have no sympathy for many of the moves Amazon has made to hurt physical retail outlets directly rather than by out-competing them, nor do I like the way Amazon has used customers as pawns in its games. And I'm certainly no fan of Amazon's lock-in plans.

But those are problems that need to be dealt with openly and head-on, not by some (potentially illegal) back-room deal. Remember that the big losers in these collusion situations are the readers who are getting swindled. And if DOJ puts a stop to that then more power to them, I say.

(h/t +Fred von Lohmann for the original pointer)

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