From The New York Times:
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, loves disrupting markets. In that regard, he must be having a delightful summer. The book business, once so mired in the past it seemed part of the antiques trade, is up for grabs.
A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that Apple had illegally conspired with five of the six biggest publishers to try to raise prices in the budding e-books market.
The decision came two days after Barnes & Noble lost its chief executive and said it would not appoint another, signaling that the biggest chain of physical bookstores could be immediately broken up.
The verdict in the Apple case might have been a foregone conclusion, telegraphed by the judge herself, but it emphatically underlined how the traditional players in the book business have been upended. Only Amazon, led by Mr. Bezos, seems to have a plan. He is executing it with a skill that infuriates his competitors and rewards his stockholders.
. . . .
The publishers settled long ago, protesting they had done nothing wrong but saying they could not afford to fight the government. But it might be a long time before they try to take charge of their fate again in such a bold fashion. Drawing the attention of the government once was bad enough; twice could be a disaster.
“The Department of Justice has unwittingly caused further consolidation in the industry at a time when consolidation is not necessarily a good thing,” said Mark Coker, the chief executive of Smashwords, an e-book distributor. “If you want a vibrant ecosystem of multiple publishers, multiple publishing methods and multiple successful retailers in 5, 20 or 50 years, we took a step backwards this week.”
. . . .
“Amazon is not in most of the headlines, but all of the big events in the book world are about Amazon,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. “If the publishers colluded, it was to blunt Amazon’s dominance. Barnes & Noble’s troubles may stem from a misstep with its Nook tablets, just as Borders’ bankruptcy might have been hastened by management mistakes, but its precarious position is that of any rent-paying retailer facing a deep-pocketed virtual competitor.”
. . . .
Amazon executives are not much for public debate, but they argue that all this disruption will ultimately give more money to more authors and make more books more widely available to more people at cheaper prices, and who could argue with any of that?
. . . .
But the more pressing concern for the industry is the fate of Barnes & Noble.
. . . .
“If all of those corporate outlets vanish, there is suddenly a hell of a lot less space devoted to showcasing a large number of titles,” said J. B. Dickey, owner of the Seattle Mystery Bookshop. “We’ll probably see a continuing shrinking in print runs, maybe fewer titles published, fewer authors published and the New York houses retreating into the known best-sellers. Which means more novice and midlist authors scrambling to find a way to stay in print and more authors self-publishing their print books — or more likely releasing their works as e-files.”
All of that sounds dire.
Link to the rest at The New York Times