When the Justice Department decided to take on "the monopolistic monolith that threatened to dominate the book industry," it chose the wrong targets—five large publishers plus minor e-book player Apple—while ignoring the all-powerful Amazon, writes a dumbfounded David Carr in the New York Times. "That’s the modern equivalent of taking on Standard Oil but breaking up Ed’s Gas ’N’ Groceries on Route 19 instead." The DOJ's price-fixing lawsuit will keep e-book competition alive ... by basically helping Amazon squash the other players and once again reign supreme.
Apple is actually one of the good guys here, Carr writes. When Amazon released the Kindle in 2007, publishers had no control over how their e-books were priced on Amazon, which frequently sold them at a loss in order to boost Kindle sales. Not only did booksellers and publishers hate the practice, it kept independent booksellers—which couldn't afford to match Amazon's ubiquitous $9.99 price tag—out of the game. When Apple made a new deal with publishers, allowing them to set their own prices (which all turned out to be about the same, thus prompting the DOJ's suit), it allowed more players to enter the e-book business. That's ultimately better for consumers than an unlimited supply of $9.99 e-books on Amazon. Click for Carr's full column.