Readersforum's Blog

March 18, 2013

Apple rejects Vancouver publisher’s vintage gay graphics book

Lust_coverBy Craig Takeuchi

A book of vintage gay erotic drawings has been rejected by Apple. Ironically, Vancouver’s Arsenal Pulp Press received the news during Freedom to Read Week.

The book in question is Lust Unearthed by university professor Thomas Waugh (first published in print in 2004). The 320-page book features over 200 images from the private collection of Hollywood costume and set designer Ambrose DuBek.

Arsenal Pulp Press associate publisher Robert Ballantyne said by phone that after inquiring why the title was delayed in being uploaded as an eBook, they received a response from Apple on March 1.

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August 16, 2012

Publishers and Apple want delay in settlement agreements

Filed under: Lawsuits — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 10:48 am

16.08.12 | Philip Jones

Publishers and Apple fighting the US’ Department of Justice over agency pricing have hit back, with new filings submitted to the Southern District of New York on Wednesday afternoon (15th August) calling on the trial judge to deny the government’s efforts to ratify the settlement agreements, or defer ruling on them until after trial.

Though it is not clear how much these latest briefs will sway Judge Denise Cote’s decision-making, the submissions do add new colour to the proceedings, with Penguin’s response beginning: “The Emperor has no clothes.”  Interestingly, though Judge Cote had previously asked the parties to set out their opposition to the settlement agreements during the public comments period, they have done so in these new submissions in response to the government’s request for the court to wave through consent.

Most serious is Apple’s assertion that its agency agreements with the settling publishers— Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group USA, and HarperCollins—cannot be terminated without a trial: “The Government is seeking to impose a remedy on Apple before there has been any finding of an antitrust violation.”

But Penguin and Macmillan also argued against “consent” being given, claiming that the new deals were not in the “public interest”. Penguin said the settlement agreements were “far from typical and reach beyond its claims against the Settling Defendants to impose a regulatory scheme on industry participants who have nothing whatsoever to do with the claims in this litigation”. Macmillan argued that the DOJ’s analysis was faulty, suggesting that the “DOJ’s cavalier assumption that its settlement terms will not result in re-monopolization is also mere ‘speculation'”.

Central to their arguments was the view, as put forward by Penguin, that the DOJ was “cherry-picking” e-book pricing data to support its case and ignoring wider market data. Macmillan argued that the government had “Failed to Consider the Negative Consequences of the Proposed Final Judgment” [sic].

Both Penguin and Macmillan maintained that there was no evidence that e-book prices rose during the period that agency existed, as had been the DOJ’s contention. Macmillan said that the government had not provided “a single economic study or analysis showing why its mandated pricing scheme is necessary to undo the effects of the alleged collusion, or why it is in ‘the public interest’.”

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July 30, 2012

Social Media Power a Novel

Halle Berry and Tom Hanks, appearing in the trailer for the movie made from the novel ‘Cloud Atlas.’

By JEFFREY A. TRACHTENBERG

Last Monday, David Mitchell’s eight-year-old novel “Cloud Atlas” was ranked 2,509 on Amazon.com Inc.’s best seller list. On Friday, it was No. 7.

The surge of sales was thanks to a trailer for a film version of the novel that debuted on Apple Inc’s website Thursday, combined with the power of social media.

“Almost as soon as the trailer went up, we saw chatter on Twitter and sales on Amazon really jumped,” said Jane von Mehren, publisher of trade paperbacks for the Random House Publishing Group, a unit of Bertelsmann AG’s Random House Inc.

To cash in on the renewed interest, Random House has ordered a new paperback printing of 25,000 copies, to hit stores before a special movie-tie in edition of the book is released in September. Currently, “Cloud Atlas” has 227,000 paperback copies in print in the U.S.

It isn’t unusual for a movie version of a book to spark fresh interest in an old title, of course. What’s uncommon in this case was the speed at which a mere trailer of a film had an impact.

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July 18, 2012

Memo to DOJ: Drop the Apple E-Books Suit

Restoring Amazon’s monopoly in digital publishing is not in the public interest.

By CHARLES E. SCHUMER

Recently the Department of Justice filed suit against Apple and major publishers, alleging that they colluded to raise prices in the digital books market. While the claim sounds plausible on its face, the suit could wipe out the publishing industry as we know it, making it much harder for young authors to get published.

The suit will restore Amazon to the dominant position atop the e-books market it occupied for years before competition arrived in the form of Apple. If that happens, consumers will be forced to accept whatever prices Amazon sets.

All of us will lose the vibrant resources a diverse publishing universe provides. As Scott Turow, president of the Author’s Guild, has explained, the Justice Department’s suit is “grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.” These losses will be particularly felt in New York, which is home not only to many publishers, but also to a burgeoning digital innovation industry.

The e-books marketplace provides a perfect example of the challenges traditional industries face in adapting to the Internet economy. Amazon took an early lead in e-book sales, capturing 90% of the retail market. Because of its large product catalog, Amazon could afford to sell e-books below cost.

This model may have served Amazon well, but it put publishers and authors at a distinct disadvantage as they continued to try to market paper books and pave a way forward for a digital future. Without viable retail competitors, publishers were forced to make a Hobson’s choice. They could allow their books to be sold at the prices Amazon set, thus undercutting their own current hardcopy sales and the future pricing expectations for digital books—or stay out of the e-books market entirely. In an increasingly digital age, the latter was simply not an option.

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May 25, 2012

Apple Claims US Government Sides with ‘Amazon’s Monopolistic Grip’ in E-book Case

Filed under: Lawsuits — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 6:07 am

By John Ribeiro,

The U.S. government has sided with monopoly rather than competition in bringing a case of e-book price-fixing against Apple, the company said in a filing on Tuesday before a federal court.

The Department of Justice filed in April an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five large publishers, accusing the companies of working together to raise prices of e-books, in retaliation for competitor Amazon.com pricing most e-books at US$9.99 beginning in late 2007.

Three publishers – Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster – agreed to settle the lawsuit, the DOJ said.

Apple’s reply to the court is in line with a statement issued by Apple in April after the DOJ filed its case, in which it said that “the launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.” The company added: “Just as we’ve allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore.”

The government’s complaint does not allege that all e-book prices, or even most e-book prices, increased after Apple entered the market, the company said in the filing before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Apple had in fact no interest in seeing price increases, it said.

The government’s complaint against Apple is fundamentally “flawed as a matter of fact and law,” Apple said. The company said it has not conspired with anyone, was not aware of any alleged conspiracy by others, and never fixed prices.

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May 6, 2012

Nooks, Books, and Schnooks

Filed under: e-tailers — Tags: , , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 2:02 pm

Is Microsoft’s new alliance with Barnes & Noble folly? Or could it hurt Apple and Amazon?

By Matthew Yglesias

When the market closed last Friday, a share of Barnes & Noble was worth less than $14. By the time the opening bell rang on Monday, that same share was worth more than $25. A couple of days of trading have seen the price settle around $20.

These gyrations are a powerful reminder that financial markets move not only based on highly uncertain forecasts about the future, but also because of the whims of a handful of individuals. Specifically, the book retailer that looked to be on death’s door has been rapidly rescued because someone at Microsoft decided to get into the book business. On April 30, the cash-rich tech giant unexpectedly announced that it was pouring $300 million of startup capital into a new Barnes & Noble subsidiary in exchange for a 16.7 percent stake in the new company. According to basic math, that made the bookstore chain the owner of 83.3 percent of a $1.7 billion company, sending the overall stock price leaping. Beyond giving a shot in the arm to the ailing retailer, this at least holds out the prospect of transforming the e-book industry just weeks after the Justice Department transformed it with an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and several major publishers.

The partnership came together so swiftly that the companies involved didn’t even bother to come up with a name for their new venture, instead provisionally titling it Newco. Newco is made up of Barnes & Noble’s Nook business and its college division, plus a bunch of Microsoft’s money and patents, along with presumably some expertise.

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April 30, 2012

Amazon vs. Publishers: The Book Battle Continues

Photographs by Nice One Productions/Corbis (ring girl); Mike Powell/The Image Bank/Getty Images (ring); C Squared Studios/Photodisc/Getty Images (stools); Ocean/Corbis (books); Reuters/Rick Wilking (boxes)

By Brad Stone

There’s a glaring anachronism at the center of most Amazon.com fulfillment centers: aisle after aisle of old-fashioned books. Amazon stocks these volumes for the many customers who still favor the tangible pleasures of reading on paper. Yet the company is relentless about increasing efficiency and has at the ready an easy way to remove some of those bookshelves: on-demand printing. With an industrial-strength printer and a digital book file from the publisher, Amazon could easily wait to print a book until after a customer clicks the yellow “place your order” button. The technology is championed by those who want to streamline the book business—and it might turn out to be a flash point in the hypertense world of publishing.

The book industry isn’t eager to embrace any more wrenching changes. The introduction of the Kindle in 2007, and Amazon’s insistence on a customer-friendly $9.99 price for new releases, has set off a multifront fracas. Efforts by the largest publishers to sidestep Amazon’s pricing strategy attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, which recently filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple  and five book publishers over their alleged collusion to raise e-book prices. (Three publishers have settled the lawsuit.) The issue of print on demand has taken a backseat as this e-book drama plays out.

Yet executives at major New York-based book publishers, who requested anonymity because of the legal scrutiny of their business, say Amazon regularly asks them to allow print on demand for their slower-selling backlist titles. So far they’ve declined, suspecting that Amazon will use its print-on-demand ability to further tilt the economics of book publishing in its favor. Asking publishers to move to print on demand “is largely about taking control of the business,” says Mike Shatzkin, founder of Idea Logical, a consultant to book publishers on digital issues. “It adds some profit margin, but it also weakens the rest of the publishing universe.”

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April 18, 2012

Book Publishing’s Real Nemesis

Eric Holder with Sharis Pozen, acting assistant attorney general, discussing the price-fixing case.

By DAVID CARR

The Justice Department finally took aim at the monopolistic monolith that threatened to dominate the book industry. So imagine the shock when the bullet aimed at threats to competition went whizzing by Amazon — which not long ago had a 90 percent stranglehold on e-books — and instead, struck five of the six biggest publishers and Apple, a minor player in the realm of books.

That’s the modern equivalent of taking on Standard Oil but breaking up Ed’s Gas ’N’ Groceries on Route 19 instead.

Last week, the Justice Department sued in United States District Court in New York, charging that Apple, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster had colluded to fix e-book prices. (Hachette, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins have already agreed to settle.)

The suit has its roots in 2007, when Amazon released the Kindle and began selling some of the most sought-after books for $9.99 in order to bolster sales of its device. Not surprisingly, booksellers and publishers hated this price with the force of 10,000 suns because it made physical books sold for $25 or more seem outrageously overpriced.

Under the wholesale arrangement with Amazon, the publishers received half of the list price, which yielded better money, but gave them no control over the pricing of their product. With the introduction of the iPad, publishers got a crack at remaking their deal because Apple allowed them to set the price and then took a cut of 30 percent.

That so-called agency model developed with Apple allowed publishers, not just Amazon, to set the price and in a move that caught the interest of the Justice Department, they all came up with pretty much the same price. (Why the crumbling book business is worthy of so much attention from Justice while Wall Street skates is a broader question we’ll leave for another day.)

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March 22, 2012

New censorship is about money, not ethics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 9:01 am

New censorship is about money, not ethics

By Ariel Bogle

As we have been discussing on MobyLives, publishing is awash with instances of arbitrary censorship.  For example, here by Apple and here by Paypal.  It is apparent that journalists and editors are no longer afraid of big government, but quake before big business and big money.  Private bodies whose influence is both far-reaching and hard to predict.

Nick Cohen argues in The Literary Review for a new way of thinking about censorship.  To begin with, Cohen asks why challenging writing about economic crises is so rare, given there are thousands of articles about the foibles of politicians.

“You no more hear writers and broadcasters admit that they are frightened of investigating investment banks than you hear them admit that they are frightened of challenging the founding myths of Islam. We cannot puncture our own myth that we are fearless seekers after truth, even though, if we honestly owned up to our limitations, we might force society to confront the fact that modern censorship does not conform to old models. It is a mistake to think of repression as repression by the state alone. In much of the world it still is, but in Britain, America and most of continental Europe the age of globalisation has done its work, and it is privatised rather than state forces that threaten freedom of speech.”

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March 19, 2012

Authors Guild head (and attorney) Scott Turow warns DOJ about the effects of law suit

By Paul Oliver

The Department of Justice’s confounding lawsuit against five of the Big Six publishing companies and Apple, Inc. for price-collusion has been widely regarded as a “out of the frying pan and into the fire” sort of move. The tragic lawsuit seemingly damages competition in benefit of the expansion of the leading market influence (Amazon) and thus undermines the supposed goal of the laws it seeks to uphold.

The list of the suit’s many detractors was joined on Friday by Author’s Guild President Scott Turow when the bestselling author and lawyer offered a clear-eyed and damning open letter concerning the suit. Turow’s letter opens with a grim warning that strikes at the heart of the matter:

Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

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