Amazon’s antagonists are crooks, liars, and Islamophobic bigots

AppleFrom the New York Times:

A federal judge on Friday approved a settlement in which Apple could begin paying $400 million to as many as 23 million consumers related to charges that it violated antitrust law by conspiring with publishers to raise e-book prices and thwart efforts by Amazon …

Apple initially agreed to pay up to $400 million to settle the class action in June, ahead of a damages trial set for two months later in which attorneys general in 33 states and class-action lawyers were expected to seek up to $840 million …

The suit accused Apple of being a “ringmaster” of a conspiracy with the five major publishers to raise the average price of e-books from the $9.99 price that Amazon had made standard for new e-book releases. Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and the Hachette Book Group settled the day the case was filed; Penguin and Macmillan settled months later.

Read the rest here.

And, to reiterate, I recognize the economic danger of Amazon’s size, but (a) Amazon is nowhere near a monopoly or monopsony, (b) it was Amazon’s competitor Apple that showed its willing to break the law to the rip off readers, and (c) the Big Five were an economically dangerous cartel long before Amazon’s first 1’s and 0’s hit the Internet, and they prove their intentions to behave as a cartel again and again, to the detriment of readers and writers.

The facts in this scandal make the deluded National Book Awards polemic delivered by Ursula Le Guin, who is otherwise a remarkable advocate for literature, all the more tragic. The counter-factual slanders that have spread throughout the writing community which she echoed, are disturbingly off-the-rails: that Amazon is telling writers what they can writer and “we just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience.”

It was an expired contract that Hachette fumbled, stumbled, and after setting their own counter-offer deadline, bumbled. Amazon was going beyond all legal and moral obligations by selling Hachette books at all.

Particularly disappointing was her “writers threatened by corporate fatwa.” Having just finished reading Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an, which examines (in part) how comparisons to Muslims were used as political insults during America’s early years, I grimaced to hear Le Guin resorting to Islamophobic bigotry to make her counterfactual argument against Amazon.

(And let’s not forget the casual racism that Authors United deployed against Amazon.)

Most striking is that all the crimes, lies, and bigotry are in defense of a pricing scheme that the Big Five use to hike prices for readers and reduce royalties for writers that apparently nobody in the anti-Amazon war camp has actually bothered to do the math on. When the mindless Amazon-hating drones can explain why the author’s percentage of profit is cut by more than half for ebooks while the publisher’s profit more than doubles in comparison, a brazen rip-off that Amazon’s model would rectify, then let them talk about their own obedience to “profiteers.”

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