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“Book publishing, one of the world’s signal achievements, is predicated upon diversity: the diversity of tastes and backgrounds, of editors taking chances on undiscovered writers and promoting them alongside marquee authors. The dominance of this special industry by any single company will overly determine its cultural output and, within only a handful of years, erode its prized diversity. This diversity is why readers turn to books in the first place.”

(New York Times, Michael Fine, publisher)

Earlier today, I read two rather excellent commentaries on the ongoing U.S. Department of Justice’s price-fixing lawsuit against e-book publishers.

In the first, a New York Times Sunday Dialogue entitled “Books in the Digital Age”, New York Times readers debate the ability of publishers to react to the market presence of Amazon, impacts on consumers as a result of the publishers’ alleged price-fixing activities, e-book and conventional book pricing and consumer choice.

In the second, Ariel Katz compares the current case to the industry-wide book publisher cartel a century ago and Bobbs-Merrill v. Straus case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court established the first-sale doctrine.  In his rather fine comparative note, Ariel Katz discusses the ongoing e-book price-fixing case, the earlier turn of the 20th century book publisher cartel, historical efforts by publishers to counteract retailers’ discounting and the role of intellectual property rights in the facilitation of publisher related cartels.

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