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5Mar/110

EU raids digital book sellers in cartel investigation|Lastest Ebook News]

EU raids digital book sellers in cartel investigation
The European Union’s competition regulators carried out unannounced inspections into various companies that sell digital books on Tuesday on suspicion of operating a cartel and engaging in other banned business practices.
Read more on CIO

4Mar/110

More on raids in price-fixing probe. Publishers “explain” high ebook pricing.

The title should read, "...try to explain" the fixed higher-pricing of e-books.  See earlier article here on the raids.

The Guardian has a piece today on the raids, which includes quotes from some publishers trying to explain or defend the fixing of pricing so that prices are generally much higher and must be the same at all online bookstores needing Agreements with the Big 5, with no way for the online stores to offer sales or lower prices no matter what the case.  Random House has decided not to join Agency pricing in Europe during this time of probing questions.

Benedicte Page and Leigh Phillips report from Brussels, where they say that officials there have "refused to say how many or which publishers were targeted although a spokesman for Hachette, famed for its dictionaries, confirmed that it was among them.  The inquiry is understood to be focused on French companies."

Excerpts of particular interest, emphases and bracketed comments, mine:

' The EU competition spokeswoman, Amelia Torres, said: "We have suspicions of collusion to keep prices high.  But if our suspicions prove to be founded, this would have an impact across the EU because ebooks are sold across borders."  She added that the firms involved face fines if the commission finds "hard evidence".

The development comes on the heels of an investigation in January by the UK's Office of Fair Trading into whether arrangements between certain publishers and retailers over the sale of ebooks "may breach competition law".

Investigation teams have asked many of the biggest London publishing houses, including HarperCollins, Hachette and Penguin, for all records and documents relating to ebook sales.
. . .
Publishers see the agency model as crucial because it allows them to trade with Apple [which created the Agency plan and insists on it], which was already using it for iTunes, and also to control the price at which their ebooks are sold.
. . .
Ronald Blunden, Hachette's head of communications, denied that the company engaged in price fixing. "Emphatically no," he said. "We are dealing with distributors [such as Amazon] who have considerable clout.

"We found that in the US, electronic retailers began to apply large discounts on ebooks, driving the cost down.  Steadily the spread between the price of a printed book and an ebook became so substantial that we felt it was just unacceptable."

"It's important for the publisher to control the retail price," Blunden continued. "We don't want the items sold below cost, as the perceived value of books becomes damaged.  Once this happens, can we expect online retailers to absorb the cost of financing the editing and publishing of books?"

John Makinson, the Penguin group chief executive, argued that the "very important" agency model contributes to a competitive ebooks marketplace.  "To have vibrant competitive markets, it's important that Apple and the other digital vendors have a place in that market.  The agency model made it possible to have that choice," he said.

Makinson added that he saw "a certain irony" in an OFT [Office of Fair Traiding - UK] investigation designed to ensure competition and consumer choice.  "That in our view is what the agency agreement has provided," he said.

Their view of 'competition' is that the online booksellers must not be allowed to offer lower prices, which means online bookstore "Sales" are no longer possible and the customer cannot look for a lower price elsewhere as it would be fruitless.  Some consider this 'price fixing' while others consider it necessary publisher-control of book pricing, no matter how artificial or without reason.]

Novelist Nick Harkaway, author of The Gone-Away World, agreed. "If the agency model is really a problem under EU law, the law is the problem, not the industry," he said. "Otherwise you fall back into a situation where Amazon controls the market.  This is not to demonise Amazon, but they are a massive portion of the physical market and if their wholesale model also dominates the digital book market, it becomes much harder to negotiate with them." '

The Bookseller's deputy editor, Philip Jones, feels that if you let the market decide, then ebooks will become "too cheap" and they'll be unable to pay authors, editors or all the infrastructure that sustains the industry."

Yes, if an industry or individual companies (as we saw with digital music and with companies still limiting themselves to distributing physical copies of DVDs) cannot find a way to adjust to a vastly changing world, they won't be able to sustain the infrastructure as it stands.  The answer is not unceasing efforts to Stop the World from moving naturally (and insisting customers just pay up, and up) but to modify their infrastructure to reflect the real world and evolving technology, no matter how upsetting it may all be for them to have to change anything.

Read more at The Guardian story.

EARLIER BLOG ARTICLES ON THE E-BOOK PRICING WARS, WITH SOURCING
A Kindle World Blog history of articles on the e-book pricing wars

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite


Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

4Mar/110

More raids in price-fixing probe. Publishers “explain” high ebook pricing

The title should read, “…try to explain” the fixed higher-pricing of e-books.  See earlier article here on the raids.

The Guardian has a piece today on the raids, which includes quotes from some publishers trying to explain or defend the fixing of pricing so that prices are generally much higher and must be the same at all online bookstores needing Agreements with the Big 5, with no way for the online stores to offer sales or lower prices no matter what the case.  Random House has decided not to join Agency pricing in Europe during this time of probing questions.

Benedicte Page and Leigh Phillips report from Brussels, where they say that officials there have “refused to say how many or which publishers were targeted although a spokesman for Hachette, famed for its dictionaries, confirmed that it was among them.  The inquiry is understood to be focused on French companies.”

Excerpts of particular interest, emphases and bracketed comments, mine:

‘ The EU competition spokeswoman, Amelia Torres, said: “We have suspicions of collusion to keep prices high.  But if our suspicions prove to be founded, this would have an impact across the EU because ebooks are sold across borders.”  She added that the firms involved face fines if the commission finds “hard evidence”.

The development comes on the heels of an investigation in January by the UK’s Office of Fair Trading into whether arrangements between certain publishers and retailers over the sale of ebooks “may breach competition law”.

Investigation teams have asked many of the biggest London publishing houses, including HarperCollins, Hachette and Penguin, for all records and documents relating to ebook sales.
. . .
Publishers see the agency model as crucial because it allows them to trade with Apple [which created the Agency plan and insists on it], which was already using it for iTunes, and also to control the price at which their ebooks are sold.
. . .
Ronald Blunden, Hachette‘s head of communications, denied that the company engaged in price fixing. “Emphatically no,” he said. “We are dealing with distributors [such as Amazon] who have considerable clout.

“We found that in the US, electronic retailers began to apply large discounts on ebooks, driving the cost down.  Steadily the spread between the price of a printed book and an ebook became so substantial that we felt it was just unacceptable.”

“It’s important for the publisher to control the retail price,” Blunden continued. “We don’t want the items sold below cost, as the perceived value of books becomes damaged.  Once this happens, can we expect online retailers to absorb the cost of financing the editing and publishing of books?”

John Makinson, the Penguin group chief executive, argued that the “very important” agency model contributes to a competitive ebooks marketplace.  ”To have vibrant competitive markets, it’s important that Apple and the other digital vendors have a place in that market.  The agency model made it possible to have that choice,” he said.

Makinson added that he saw “a certain irony” in an OFT [Office of Fair Traiding - UK] investigation designed to ensure competition and consumer choice.  ”That in our view is what the agency agreement has provided,” he said.

Their view of ‘competition’ is that the online booksellers must not be allowed to offer lower prices, which means online bookstore “Sales” are no longer possible and the customer cannot look for a lower price elsewhere as it would be fruitless.  Some consider this ‘price fixing’ while others consider it necessary publisher-control of book pricing, no matter how artificial or without reason.]

Novelist Nick Harkaway, author of The Gone-Away World, agreed. “If the agency model is really a problem under EU law, the law is the problem, not the industry,” he said. “Otherwise you fall back into a situation where Amazon controls the market.  This is not to demonise Amazon, but they are a massive portion of the physical market and if their wholesale model also dominates the digital book market, it becomes much harder to negotiate with them.” ‘

The Bookseller‘s deputy editor, Philip Jones, feels that if you let the market decide, then ebooks will become “too cheap” and they’ll be unable to pay authors, editors or all the infrastructure that sustains the industry.”

Yes, if an industry or individual companies (as we saw with digital music and with companies still limiting themselves to distributing physical copies of DVDs) cannot find a way to adjust to a vastly changing world, they won’t be able to sustain the infrastructure as it stands.  The answer is not unceasing efforts to Stop the World from moving naturally (and insisting customers just pay up, and up) but to modify their infrastructure to reflect the real world and evolving technology, no matter how upsetting it may all be for them to have to change anything.

Read more at The Guardian story.

EARLIER BLOG ARTICLES ON THE E-BOOK PRICING WARS, WITH SOURCING
A Kindle World Blog history of articles on the e-book pricing wars

Via Andrys Basten’s A Kindle World Blog
4Mar/110

EU raids digital book sellers in cartel investigation|Lastest Ebook News]

EU raids digital book sellers in cartel investigation
IDG News Service - The European Union’s competition regulators carried out unannounced inspections into various companies that sell digital books on Tuesday on suspicion of operating a cartel and engaging in other banned business practices.
Read more on Computerworld

3Mar/110

EU raids publishers in ebook price-fixing probe|Lastest Ebook News]

EU raids publishers in ebook price-fixing probe
European investigators raided several major publishers on Wednesday as the worldwide probe into allegations of price-fixing of ebooks stepped up a gear.
Read more on AFP Telegraph Finance News via Yahoo! UK & Ireland Finance

3Mar/110

“EU raids publishers in ebook price-fixing probe”

EU raids publishers in ebook price-fixing probe
That's the headline in a story from The Telegraph today, written by Rupert Neate.

The drama continues with the wording, "European investigators raided several major publishers on Wednesday as the worldwide probe into allegations of price-fixing of ebooks stepped up a gear."  The actual wording is more important than usual so I'll do more quoting than paraphrasing.   The bracketed comments are mine.

' The European Commission said its agents had "reason to believe" that several unnamed companies across Europe "may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and other restrictive business practices".

The raids comes after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) last month launched a similar probe into the prices of ebooks, which can cost more than twice as much as their printed cousins. [Exactly.]

The OFT's investigation focuses on publishers' ability to set ebook prices using "agency" pricing.
. . .
The discrepancy has led to some electronic books costing far more than a hardback version of the same book.
. . .
Earlier this year, Amazon said sales of ebooks for its Kindle ereader had overtaken paperback sales in the US for the first time. A similar investigation is under way in the US.

An EU Competition Commission spokesman refused to name the publishing houses raided, but said investigators were "working closely with the OFT".

Penguin, the publisher owned by Pearson, and Harper Collins, which is owned by News Corporation, are both being investigated by the OFT, but were not raided by EU investigators.

Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury, which has declared 2011 "the year of the ebook", refused to state whether or not it had been raided.

Publishers refused to comment on the legality of the agency pricing model. '

The Harry Potter books have never been made available on e-books, however, because the author doesn't want them available in that format.

But, this was really quick action, relatively speaking.  Some thought it would take a year before any actual investigation.

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite


Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.