Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Feds to E-Book Settlement Critics: Haters Gonna Hate

The federal government is close to finalizing a settlement with three big e-book publishers it has accused of price-fixing. But first, a bit of civic stagecraft: The Department of Justice posted the settlement, invited public comment and then ignored the public comment.

You can find all of the relevant links here, including a 97-megabyte .zip file with every one of the 868 comments the DOJ received over the course of 60 days. But since you may have better things to do with your Monday, a quick summary of the DOJ’s response:

  • Not surprisingly, the DOJ says all of the complaints about its settlement with HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster over e-book pricing are from self-interested whiners. In their words: “Many critics of the settlements view the consequences of the conspiracy — higher prices — as serving their own self-interests, and they prefer that unfettered competition be replaced by industry collusion that places the welfare of certain firms over that of the public.”
  • You can’t accuse the DOJ lawyers of immodesty. They suggest that three recent announcements — that Microsoft would invest in Barnes & Noble’s Nook platform, that Microsoft is going to produce its own Surface tablets and that Google would sell its own Nexus 7 tablets — prove that “more companies are investing to enter or expand in the market and compete against Amazon, Apple,” and they suggest that they should get some credit for this.
  • The real value in the DOJ’s response is that it provides a guide to the government’s strategy against its remaining defendants in the price-fixing case: Penguin Group, MacMillan and Apple. The DOJ spends a good chunk of its response filing attacking Apple’s response to its initial charges. A sample heading from that section: “Apple’s Suggested Changes to the Proposed Final Judgment Are SelfServing and Contrary to the Public Interest”

Here’s the full response:
Book response

*HarperCollins is owned by News Corp., which also owns this Web site.

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