Google Settlement Fairness Hearing Adjourned

September 24, 2009.  We just received word that Judge Denny Chin granted the motion of authors and publishers to adjourn the fairness hearing scheduled for October 7th.  While noting that the current settlement raises “significant issues,” Judge Chin says that “the proposed settlement would offer many benefits to society, as recognized by supporters of the settlement as well as DOJ. … It would appear that if a fair and reasonable settlement can be struck, the public would benefit.”

Judge Chin ordered the parties to the settlement to appear on October 7th for a status conference “to determine how to proceed with the case as expeditiously as possible.”

We’ll continue to work on amending the settlement to address the Justice Department’s concerns.

Comments: more
  • DanielMCruse

    Seeing independent bookstores die away is something I abhor. But the digital age has helped kids who wouldn’t pick up a book start to read and for that, I can’t totally hate that medium of distribution.

  • Michellerichmond

    Egad! Phone typing… What I meant to say in final paragraph is that an unchecked Amazon, which will lead to the further dessication of brick and mortar bookstores and in turn to the decreased ability of publishers to pay author advances, will mean that authors of ordinary means–like me and most authors I know–will have far fewer opportunities to write and to be heard. Brick and mortar stores, in conjunction with publishers, introduce unknown authors to a wide readership, creating a richer experience for readers and allowing authors to have a viable career.

  • Michellerichmond

     As an author who also happens to be married to someone who has worked for DOJ for 15 years, I am deeply disturbed by the proposed lawsuit against Apple and several publishers. No single entity has done more to destroy book culture than Amazon, whose aggressively monopolistic tactics hurt bookstores, publishers, and ultimately writers. If Amazon is allowed to continue on its current path of putting booksellers out of business through unethical business practices, writers like me will soon cease to have any chance of making a living through our creative work. 

    We rely on publishers for advances and royalties. Apple’s implementation of the agency model wrestled back some of the ebook market from the most ferociously anti-author player in the business–Amazon. For authors, the agency model insures that we can continue to receive a fair price for our books. 

    It saddens me to see DOJ siding with the behemoth Amazon against authors, bookstores, and publishers. It is an extraordinarily short-sighted position which can only be detrimental to book culture.

    In the end, an unchecked Amazon will lead to the death of the publishers, and to a book culture dominated by those who do not need to make a living because they are supported by family wealth, spouses, or other means. In other words,  writers like me and almost every author I know.  There was a time in the not too distant past when most books were written by the upper classes, persons whose comfortable lifestyle allowed them to pursue artistic endeavors. Advances paid by publishers level the playing field, rewarding talent and merit. When publishers cannot afford to pay advances, the opportunity for new writers of ordinary means to break into the marketplace will be seriously impeded. Which means that readers will have far fewer opportunities to discover great books.

    If there’s anyone who doesn’t need a government bailout, it’s Amazon.

  • Peter Gethers

    I have just sent in a strongly worded email to the Department of Justice.  I’m a longtime author and publisher.  Wearing both hats doesn’t make me right in my view, but it does give me a somewhat unique and reasonable perspective.  This isn’t about fear of technology or fear od middlemen or fear of anything…except a fear that one institution might so dominate publishing at every level — book selling, book publishing, book financing and ultimately book gate-keeping — that authors, publishers and, most important, the reading public will suffer greatly. This is actually about freedom of choice as well as the need to balance art and business.  The DOJ could not be more misguided in their suit and their judgement in this instance.  I’m all for Amazon surviving and thriving.   That is good for everyone.  But I’m not for Amazon being the only surviving bookseller or, ultimately, the only surviving publisher, both of which are possible.  I’m for a level playing field. And the DOJ is attempting to stack the deck so such a level field isn’t going to be possible.

  • Rowena Cherry
  • Rowena Cherry

    What puzzles me is why The Authors Guild and others aren’t presenting similar arguments to those of Mr Glassman

  • Rowena Cherry

    If this case proceeds to trial, would I be correct in assuming that it would be a bench trial? 

    I think it would be impossible to empanel a jury that did not have an inherent conflict of interest.Most members of the public would probably like a refund or cheaper e-books. 

  • Nick Taylor

     Ann Banks and Rowena Cherry are right.  All the people who love the Amazon model now will love it a lot less when it’s the only publisher left and no longer has to compete for authors and titles.  Sure, it’s a strong business model, but there are a lot of other things to think about: the publishers’ (unfortunately diminishing) role in producing and supporting valuable mid-list books that would otherwise be lost; the value of the brick-and-mortar bookstore as a place to find not only books but ideas; the value of all that goes into a book beyond its physical form.  It’s an aging industry only in terms of the movement of a book from that form to another one.  Books and what’s in them have informed advanced societies since ink and papyrus.  The Authors Guild isn’t defending a passe industry.  It’s defending a necessity from a monopolistic takeover.  

  • Ann Banks

    I think the Department of Justice has mistaken David for Goliath.  I have no particular love for publishers but I will be very afraid when they are all gone and only Amazon is left.   Ken Auletta has written an excellent explanation of what is at stake in this week’s New Yorker.
    Apple, Amazon, and the War for the E-Book Market : The New Yorker

  • Jeff Dwyer

    I’ve watched this price-fixing attempt by the major publishers with a sad resignation that old publishing has changed forever and there’s nothing that should or can be done to preserve an aging industry from major disruption. Additionally, its been equally sad to watch smart Authors Guild members try to defend the price fixing attempts that the government is wisely dismantling. It is not against the law to sell products for less money than a competitor, but it is against the law to conspire to fix pricing to protect profit margins to preserve a failing business model. I’ve decided not to renew my membership in the Authors Guild. I don’t think the Guild represents the best interests of the creative community any longer, but instead it is more concerned with protecting the status quo and advocating for the publishing establishment. Best of luck.

  • David Siebert

    Wow as a reader I have to say this is disappointing. You are condoning price fixing by the publishers. 

    1. All retail stores have the right to set their price. It is illegal for a supplier to set a retail price. That is called price fixing people.
    2. It is insane that ebooks should cost the consumer as much as a physical book. The publisher has no printing costs for an ebook, no shipping costs, no warehousing, and no returns. The publisher and authors also do not have to deal with people used books.3. If publishers really want to charge the same for an ebook as a physical book then they must allow the ebook user all the same rights as a paper book user. AKA I can lend that book to as many people as I want. Of course only one at a time. I must also have the right to resell the book to a used ebook book store if I wish.

     Hey I love going to a book store as much as anyone but frankly they never have the books I want in stock. Do you know how many times I have gone to a book store and could not find book one of a series I wanted to read? Or maybe books one, two, four, and six of a series?
    Sorry but publishers are ripping off readers and authors. Authors should get a higher royalty on ebooks since the publishers only costs for ebooks are for promotion, editing, and formatting. Customers should be a paying much lower prices for ebooks than paper books or ebooks much institute unlimited lending and or selling of the ebook.
    Sorry but the publishers where and are breaking anti-trust law by colluding in price fixing. 

    • Rowena Cherry

      Copyright law gives the copyright owner the right to set the price of his work. First Sale rights do not apply to ebooks under the DMCA… and as I understand it, Amazon does not purchase e-books before it sells them.

      Retailers may sell physical products that they have purchased and for which they have paid, but they are not entitled to create duplicates of those physical products.

      No one condones price fixing… but the entity fixing prices is AMAZON, not the publishers. 

      I find it insane that Amazon has convinced everyone that all the months or years that go into writing and editing a book are  relatively worthless, and that the main value in a paper book is the paper and ink and storage.

  • Christine Kling

    Thank you Lawrence Block for voicing views I share when this organization that is supposed to represent me – does not.

  • Rowena Cherry

    I find it extraordinary that Amazon has managed to convince copyright owners that their work is almost worthless, at the same time that Amazon has trained readers to believe that ebooks ought to be priced at a disproportionate discount to paper books.

    Those who spend time on Kindle boards can see readers claim that Amazon USA ebooks are too expensive, so they buy their e-books elsewhere, more cheaply (how is that possible?) and side-load the books.  Kindle owners claim to have hundreds, if not thousands of free ebooks on their devices or in Amazon’s cloud…. more than they will ever read, but that they will probably lend.

    Amazon demands for exclusivity and for the publishers’ own sites to price e-books no lower than the ebooks  sell on Amazon are not in the public interest.

    • Rowena Cherry

      Interesting article on the delivery charges Amazon imposes on authors.

    • Robert Browne

      I’ve made more money than I care to advertise selling my books on Amazon in the last month. So have many of my friends. Email me privately and I’ll tell you how much.

      So how does that translate to Amazon convincing copyright owners that their work is almost worthless? I offer my books at a reasonable price, make a very tidy 70% profit, and my readers seem quite content with what I’m offering.

      Anyone who says that Amazon is somehow unfair to authors or readers simply has no idea what they’re talking about.

  • The Authors Guild

    Lawrence, the Guild’s concern is not about technological changes — making it easier and less expensive to reach readers without having publishers in the middle is undoubtedly a good thing for readers and authors. We embraced that more than a decade ago with our on-demand book program. The problem is when the technology is used to build, extend, and defend monopolies. In the long run, this won’t be good for authors or readers.

    The Tunney Act recognizes the need for public comment on proposed antitrust settlements, because the settlements can be so far reaching. The participants in the affected markets — including authors and readers — are encouraged to discuss how the settlement might be harmful or helpful, particularly regarding whether the settlement will encourage competition. The Justice Department can stop the alleged collusion without requiring that three publishers allow Amazon to resume predatory pricing. It should do so.

    The choice isn’t between Amazon and the past.  There’s no going back, and there shouldn’t be.  Publishers either add value in this new environment, or they don’t. If they don’t, they won’t survive and they shouldn’t.

    Bookstores, too:  they have to add value to survive.  If they lose in a fair fight, authors have no good reason to gripe.  Authors’ fortunes have long been hitched to the free market.  But bookstores shouldn’t be finished off because they’re inconvenient to Amazon and its business plans, and Amazon happens to have the money and the bookselling data to do them in. Unfortunately, that seems to be the path we’re on. 

    I’m happy to discuss this with you at your convenience.

    Paul Aiken
    Executive Director

    • Robert Browne

      No matter how you try to paint it, Amazon is not a monopoly and never will be. Others are free to compete with Amazon and currently do so. Amazon may be the dominant force right now, but that’s simply because they have a smart, workable business model and great customer service. They innovate while others stagnate. 

      They’ve also opened the door to midlist authors and offered them wonderful terms for their work. To my mind, the Authors Guild should be THANKING Amazon for creating a new marketplace for its authors in which they can not only compete fairly, but can enjoy the financial rewards they should have been getting from publishers long ago.

  • Lawrence Block

    I find your crusade misguided and wrongheaded, so much so that I find myself contemplating resigning from the Guild altogether. That’s a step I’m not quite prepared to take just now, but I’ve stopped supporting the organization financially, stopped being on the Benefit Committee, stopped attending the annual dinner. Y’all are making yourselves irrelevant, even as the publishers whose cause you are championing have been doing for some time. I don’t get it.

    Lawrence Block