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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

« Mayo, Confusion, and What is Patentable | Main | Nest Fires Back At Honeywell »

April 11, 2012

How Did Jon Sargent Get So Divorced From Reality?

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

Jon Sargent, in case you were wondering, is the current CEO of Macmillan publishers, and has gotten himself in the news a bit today because of his reactions to the DOJ finally filing suit against his company and the other big publishing houses.

Quick recap: the DOJ has been hinting about filing this thing for at least a month. The core charge is that five big publishers colluded with Apple to fix prices via an agency model for e-books. According to the WSJ piece, the civil suit alleges that the publishers banded together by phone and email to break Amazon's back over its "wretched $9.99 price point."

The new news is that three of the five would rather smoke than fight, agreeing to a settlement that will let Amazon resume discounting e-books. They may also have to pay "tens of millions of dollars in restitution " to consumers who were ripped off by the illegally priced e-books, settling a separate suit brought by a group of states. Apple and two of the publishers didn't like DOJ's terms and will do the "see you in court" routine.

The first part of that routine is, of course, trying one's case in the press. DOJ tries to make its case look as strong as possible, and the defendants respond by denying guilt and making charges about government interfering in good ole American business. If that's what Sargent wants to do he needs a better writer - maybe he knows a few?

See his blog post on tor.com (Tor is owned by Macmillan). In this triumph of illogic he claims that switching to the agency model would "make less money on our e book business." Say what? You jump prices 30% overnight and make less money? Either you're not fit to run a business or something very fishy is going on. Trust me, if I'm hurting trying to sell a product for $9.99 and tomorrow you let me sell it for $12.99 and prevent anyone from discounting it back down? I'm going to make more money.

Unless, somehow, you think the 30% price jump is going to kill your customers' willingness to buy that product, in which case you are a frakking moron for jumping the price in the first place.

Moving on, we then get the claim that "We made the change to support an open and competitive market." Would someone like to tell me how a price-fixed, guaranteed-no-discounting market is more "open" or "competitive" than one that lets prices vary? Oh, never mind. This is code for "we found a way to force people to buy our stuff at the price we wanted and from the people we want you to buy from, who are not Amazon."

The best part is the personal story: "I made the decision on January 22nd, 2010 a little after 4:00 AM, on an exercise bike in my basement." Dude, if you're deciding the entire future of your business at dark-o'clock when you can't sleep then you need to take a big step back, and maybe step down. The corporate cowboy routine may play well if you're Mark Cuban or Donald Trump, but (even though your company is privately held) there are people who depend on a management team making responsible, well thought-out decisions. Preferably not at four in the morning.

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