Sara's Column: Balance still needed for E-book pricing

Color me shocked.
Mar 28, 2014
Sara McManamy-Johnson

Color me shocked. 

OK, not really.

Tennesseans will begin receiving account credits or checks this week in a partial agreement resolving an E-book price-fixing lawsuit brought by Attorney General Bob Cooper and attorneys general from 32 other states. 

The lawsuit, calling for $166 million nationwide payment, was brought against Apple Inc. and five of the six largest E-book publishers in the country three years ago. Those E-book publishers are Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Simon & Schuster Inc., Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC, d/b/a Macmillan and Penguin Group Inc. Tennessee’s share is about $2.8 million The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has now approved those agreements after finding they conspired to restrain trade in violation of federal and state laws.

I’ll admit that I hadn’t followed this particular lawsuit, but I wasn’t overly surprised when I learned of it.

As an E-book user, I’ve always just kind of shaken my head at some of the prices I’ve seen on them. 

I use Amazon’s Kindle app for my cellphone and tablets, so periodically I browse the Kindle store when it’s time to revamp my library. The first time I saw a novel selling for $15 for just the E-book, I honestly thought it was a typo.

Let’s face it, one of the advantages of E-books for publishers is considerably lower costs to produce them.

Paper and ink gets pricey.

With E-books, publishers cut out not only paper and ink, but also a lot of the costs for physical distribution. I’d wager it’s a lot cheaper to send it out via the Internet than via interstate trucking.

Hopefully with the recent settlement, we’ll start to see the pricing market for E-books adjust itself naturally. Should they be free? While the cheapskate in me says, “wow, that’d be nice,” the writer in me says, “I don’t think so.”

Like it or not, somebody – or several somebodies – put a lot of work into that E-book. They deserve to be paid for their work. But $15 for a digital copy of a book that sells in hardcopy for $20?

I don’t think so.

Sara McManamy-Johnson is the digital content director for The Lebanon Democrat and Wilson County News. Email her at sjohnson@lebanondemocrat.com or follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.

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