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February 8, 2013
(Littlest) Cheese Crumbles
In a letter posted today on the tor.com Web blog, Macmillan CEO John Sargent announced that they have settled with the DOJ.
The reasons given are eerily familiar these days - the potential downside of a loss was too great to take.
As I noted back in December, Macmillan found itself standing alone against a government opposition that felt it had a strong hand and no inclination to compromise. Unfortunately, this lack of compromise means that the worst parts of the deal are still in place; essentially the deal gives Amazon a big wet kiss and a lot of ability to shape the marketplace. However, as I also posted back in December, we have seen some price erosion in e-books compared to the agency-mandated floors, but not nearly as much as expected.
It's possible, then, that Apple or Amazon won't come to dominate the ebook-to-reader "last mile" the way many of us had feared. But that mostly depends on relying on the good graces and forgiveness of these companies, which I'm not inclined to rely on that any more than I'm inclined to rely on DOJ's prosecutorial discretion. I would say that Macmillan's capitulation brings us to the end of Chapter 1 in the mass-market e-book story, but there are going to be more chapters written, and probably soon.
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