Friday, April 13, 2012

DOJ Lawsuit Good for Authors! It Is Not Always About Amazon!

"I applaud the Department of Justice. The DoJ lawsuit is good for authors and good for readers. The alleged conspiracy wasn’t just intended to keep Apple down, the DoJ complaint makes clear it was intended to keep down the royalties paid to successful authors as well." (read post this quote was taken from)

When I first read about the Department of Justice class action lawsuit against Apple and the Legacy publishers who colluded (allegedly) to establish the agency model of pricing, I immediately thought here comes the conspiracy theories about Amazon being behind this to be followed with the bemoaning of the fate of the publishing industry if the DoJ wins the lawsuit.

Then I read Morris Rosenthal's weekly blog, the quote from which is posted above with a link to read the rest of Morris' blog post. It would seem there is an overlooked factor in the case that most self-published authors who dislike Amazon would do well to note. So would all of the traditionally published authors who take the side of the Legacy Publishers against Amazon.

Part of the alleged conspiracy included not only price fixing, elimination of competition, etc, among the parties involved, but an organized effort to keep payments to authors as low as possible. In other words, binding the mouth of the Ox who turns the grindstone!  

Authors, not publishers, create the content  that publishing companies sell. Yes, they have a hand in the editing, design, marketing, etc, but the publishers do not create the content. The only real value they have these days is some control of a distribution system, but with print-on-demand and eBooks, that is of little real value these days as well, at least for the self-published author.

Why shouldn't the authors receive more of the money from the sale of eBooks? There is almost no expense involved in publishing an eBook and there is certainly no expense for physical production or physical distribution. There is plenty of money for everyone, it would just seem the publishers don't want to pay a reasonable and fair share to the very people the publishers rely on for creation of the product the publisher sells.

It would seem a bit short sighted on the part of the publisher. If I was a traditionally published author whose books sold well, I would have to take a look at self-publishing if my publisher was trying to make certain that I, and other authors, did not receive fair compensation for creation of the product the publishers sells, book content.

Amazon and Barnes and Nobel may be just playing nice for now with their large royalty rates they currently offer to authors who self-publish their eBooks with these two online book retailers (70% and 65% respectively when following pricing guidelines established by these two competing companies) to get authors to publish content directly and with no middleman taking a cut. Who knows what will happen down the road in the future.

Given the lack of cost involved in the production and distribution of eBooks, it is inexcusable for publishers to collude to pay as little as possible to the content makers, authors. In fact, it might have seemed like a good idea at the moment, but it is a bad long term policy. These entities are biting the hand that produces what feeds them all, the authors.

Books still need editing, good designs and quality covers. But all of this can be done by the author by hiring freelance editors, artists and individuals skilled in book design. Most authors today, self-published or not, have to do the lion's share of promoting and marketing the book, so what real aid to a mid-list author does a legacy publisher provide?

If the allegations in the DoJ suit are true concerning the collusion to keep payment to authors as low as possible, the anti-Amazon crowd may need to rethink their position. At least Amazon recognizes where the content comes from and will pay authors better than the traditional publishers do.

This lawsuit bears following by all individuals who have a iron in the fire. The outcome will have significant impact on the writing/content creation as well as publishing sides of the industry.