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Connecticut AG To Grill Amazon, Apple Over E-Book Price Fixing

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the jig-is-up dept.

Government 107

suraj.sun tips news that Connecticut's Attorney General has demanded a meeting with Apple and Amazon to discuss anti-competitive pricing methods in the e-book market. From Ars: "Richard Blumenthal says that he wants representatives from both on-line giants in his office ASAP to discuss what Blumenthal calls their 'most favored nation' arrangements with big book companies like Macmillan and Simon & Schuster. The crux of the MFN concept is that a given product maker must offer a given distributor the lowest price it's offering anyone. If a competing distributor gets a price break, they get it too. 'The net effect is fairly obvious,' Blumenthal warned in his letter to Amazon (PDF), 'in that MFNs will reduce the publisher's incentive to offer a discount to Amazon if it would have to offer the same discount to Apple, leading to the establishment of a price floor for e-books offered by the publisher.'"

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107 comments

Zero cost copying (4, Interesting)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124476)

Of course ebook prices are fixed (amoungst other digital "goods") - how the hell do you price something that can be copied infinitely at next to zero cost? And therein lies the problem...

Re:Zero cost copying (4, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124564)

It's one thing to say "This book will cost $14.99 from our store." It's quite another to say "All the books we sell will be $14.99, and if you let us sell your book you're not allowed to sell this book anywhere else for cheaper."

Re:Zero cost copying (2, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124668)

I don't see where this would help though. Apple and Amazon - being the giants of this particular industry, would logically be able to negotiate the lowest prices anyways. I don't see how this will affect much. Now if "Joe's Online Bookshop" had managed to negotiate this type of thing, it might be a different story. As it is, its about like complaining that Wal-mart made an arrangement with Rubbermaid so that they had to have the lowest cost on their stuff. IE - just a contractually enforced status quo.

Re:Zero cost copying (2, Interesting)

evilbessie (873633) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125106)

But that is a monopoly, why would anyone look anywhere else if they know the best deals are always at Amazon? Small online retailers can't offer special discounts or offers if they are not allowed to sell below the Amazon/Apple floor, you don't get effective competition hence why it needs to be looked into.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125162)

Collusion. Apple, Amazon, (and presumably the Nook) normally have to compete with each other, trying to out-price one another. If Apple negotiates a special "vampire sale" with a publisher to co-incide with the next Twilight movie release, suddenly everyone gets books at that rate. That kills any competitive edge Apple might gain from the lowered costs, and therefore the price floor is prevented from drifting downwards. Everyone maintains the same prices at the same levels.

Basically, this is an indirect way of creating a monopoly pricing situation without directly setting prices with competitors.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

camperslo (704715) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125804)

I don't see where this would help though. Apple and Amazon - being the giants of this particular industry, would logically be able to negotiate the lowest prices anyways

Perhaps we're looking at the wrong model for profit.
If their cut is a percentage, it is bigger when the retail price is higher.

Of course the authors could be well paid even with prices well below paperback since there's no printing, shipping, and fewer in the middle. A huge factor that's not mentioned much is the lower risks for the publisher. Once the content is generated, there's no risk of wasted printing/storage on unsold inventory. And if a publication has errors or needs updates for some other reason, it's easy to do and doesn't make a bunch of inventory worthless.

Reasonable pricing would also help to stem piracy. DRM certainly reduces the product value to some buyers. There's no used market, they can't easily give things no longer needed to friends/family/schools/libraries, compatibility with future hardware is uncertain...

There should be a huge amount of material that we can legally and easily use for free. The hardware vendors do little to provide access to that. They're more interested in distribution revenue.

I chuckle at people fussing over the Kindle getting cheaper. Someone getting two books a week may spend $1000 a year. The cost of the hardware pales in that perspective. It starts to look more like a cable box...

Re:Zero cost copying (2, Insightful)

homer_s (799572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124894)

The govt. already does this (see the lawsuit against Oracle); so do plenty of companies.

Think of Amazon and Apple acting as agents for the consumer - they collect all the buying power of the individual consumers and use that to get the publishers/manufacturers to get their pricing down.

I fail to see what the problem is - it is two entities voluntarily agreeing to certain terms (and please don't tell me it is not voluntary - unless someone holds a gun to your head, it is voluntary).

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

Cytotoxic (245301) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125072)

The govt. already does this (see the lawsuit against Oracle); so do plenty of companies.

This was my first thought as well. This article following right on the heels of the announcement of the Oracle suite shows the completely schizophrenic nature of our government and the law. Oracle is being prosecuted for not doing exactly the same thing that Amazon/Apple are (potentially) being prosecuted for doing. Really bizarre stuff.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126950)

The issue is price fixing, from a selling standpoint. The government is buying stuff to use, and makes no profit from the purchases. Amazon and Apple, on the other hand, want lowest prices in order to maximize profits when they turn around and sell the product. IANAL, but I assume if Amazon signed a MFN agreement with Dell when purchasing computers for internal use (not sale), it would be legal.

The voluntary part of the agreement has nothing to do with it- cartels are often voluntary, and although indirect the publishers are complicit with forming an effective cartel here. Also, Amazon and Apple are not acting as agents for the consumer if they say "we don't want to compete". As clearly stated in the article, this practice keeps prices up.

Re:Zero cost copying (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33125010)

That's not an accurate description... These MFN clauses actually say "We, the retailer, will pay you, the publisher, $4.99 per book, and if you make an arrangement with a different retailer where they pay you less than $4.99 per book, then we want that price as well."

I don't see how this is the determining factor for 'price fixing' since any retailer is still free to sell at a lose. Also, without this the publishers would probably intentionally favor new retailers to fragment the retail market, and probably to open the way to go into direct sales themselves, which would be beneficial to them, but not necessarily to consumers.

Re:Zero cost copying (3, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125036)

This makes no sense to me.

If I want to sell my books to amazon for $5 while charging $6 to everyone else, why does it matter? Why is the Government's General Attorney interfering with these transaction that only involves two people (me and the amazon rep)? This looks to me like some guy who has too much time on his hands, or is possible looking for an issue to hang his reelection campaign upon.

Note that this is different from the price-fixing that CD companies were doing - forcing stores like Kmart and Walmart to raise prices from $9 to $12 minimum. That could be argued to be Damaging the consumer, and was found to be an illegal cartel (record companies acting as one unit).

Re:Zero cost copying (2, Informative)

bloobloo (957543) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126024)

Most Favoured Customer clauses are well known in economics to be a sign of a cartel.

Most-Favored-Customer Pricing and Tacit Collusion
Thomas E. Cooper
The RAND Journal of Economics, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Autumn, 1986), pp. 377-388

Abstract:

This article examines the role of the most-favored-customer pricing policy as a practice facilitating coordination in a dynamic model of price-setting duopoly. This policy is a promise by a firm that if it later lowers price, it will rebate to current customers the difference between the price they pay now and the lower future price. by reducing each firm's incentive to reduce price, the policy enables both firms to offer higher prices and to enjoy higher profits. Consequently, at least one firm offers the policy in equilibrium. We illustrate these general results in an example.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

Garwulf (708651) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128514)

The problem is that the scenario would be a bit closer to this:

Amazon: We want you to give us the lowest price on your e-book.

You: Okay, I can do that.

Amazon: Oh, and by the way, if you don't sign an agreement saying that we will always get the lowest price, we're not going to carry your e-book.

You: Um...

Amazon: And if you ever give somebody a lower discount than we're getting anytime in the future, you had better give us that discount too, or we'll de-list your e-book and nail you for breach of contract.

You: But...

Amazon: That's the price of doing business with us.

Now, I've exaggerated this a bit for dramatic effect, but this is the basic scenario. It's Amazon and Apple trying to force e-book publishers into contracts that not only dictate how they do business with Apple and Amazon, but with everybody else too.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

Defenestrar (1773808) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124696)

The original production cost is however definitely non-zero and there may very well be a minimum per copy royalty split between the publisher and author which applies to each transaction.

Copies sold to "book clubs" and such are often contracted at lower royalty rates, however, I highly doubt that Amazon or Apple should count as anything other than retail.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125434)

Unfortunately, from what I have read, authors receive the effective royalty of 1 book from all the ebook sales. This is crazy, but as there is one original copy, this is how the publishers feel it should be handled.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#33129034)

Unfortunately, from what I have read, authors receive the effective royalty of 1 book from all the ebook sales. This is crazy, but as there is one original copy, this is how the publishers feel it should be handled.

You are mistaken.

Authors receive a royalty check based on number of eBooks sold every so often from the publishers that cover eBook sales. I'm not sure what "average" is for such royalty checks, but the two or three I've seen mentioned in various places were in the hundreds of dollars (and this was some years ago).

Re:Zero cost copying (0)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124734)

that's not a problem, it's called reality. The cost the ebook itself is zero.

The issue is that price and value are separate entities, and while the price might be zero, finding ways to increase the value of the ebook might make the price more acceptable. Have publishers done this for 99.9% of the books that are out there? Hell no.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125194)

The iterative price is near zero. The initial unit price may be a million dollars.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125558)

The cost the ebook itself is zero.

The marginal cost to produce an individual copy may be zero; the cost of the ebook is, however, not just the marginal cost to produce a copy, its the fixed costs of producing the title divided by the number of copies sold plus the marginal cost of the copy.

Re:Zero cost copying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33124824)

Well for Amazon the price is not zero. They pay per bit to use the wireless network. An ebook can cost up to $1 to copy in that situation.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125126)

That $1 per copy figure seems awfully high, considering their AWS prices for such a transaction are several orders of magnitude lower.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

DrXym (126579) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124922)

Of course ebook prices are fixed (amoungst other digital "goods") - how the hell do you price something that can be copied infinitely at next to zero cost? And therein lies the problem...

With DRM which ebook providers virtually all already use. The only reason price fixing happens (as it more less is now) is because content providers and stores are allowed to get away with it. It's a cartel in all but name through a series of interdependent contracts that mean that Amazon, Apple can never be undercut which more or less rules out any smaller player competing with them.

It's too bad someone like the EU doesn't step in mandating that all devices must support a common DRM & file format for envelope & payload, that it must be offered on fair terms to any store that wishes to use it, that it must provide reasonable protections for end users, that providers can suggest a retail price but cannot enforce it and devices must support content regardless of where it was purchased. Then we might to see a level playing field where competition drives down prices.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 3 years ago | (#33134210)

No. In the short term, there must be MORE DRM systems for ebooks. Every tom dick and harry setting up an ebook store must have their own separate DRM system that works with some hardware, not with others, and may or may not have an app for MacOS X, Windows and/or Linux.

That way, consumers wind up getting frustrated with DRM'ed ebooks, and start looking for and demanding DRM-free ebooks.

The movie industry kind of learned to avoid this by their online experimentation [ie, Walmart's clusterfuck, the multitude of wacky video formats and drm systems for various video bits offered online over the years]. They are now trying to nail down a 'common' drm system that just happens to give them total control over your video 'purchases'. And they have effectively used contract law against companies to prevent them from offering you products that enable you to actually be able to use your fair-use rights, regardless of the DMCA and/or copyright law.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124958)

That's hardly the problem since the authoring of the book to begin iwth has a cost. I imagine a lot of authors don't exactly do this for free. Add to that the royalties (if any) the author gets for copies sold, and the fact that the publisher also has employees to pay all sorts of overhead and a motivation to make a profit then yes while making copies might be next to zero there still is all sorts of other costs to take care of.

Paper is Cheap; People and Processes are Costly (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125494)

Here's a very informed look at the costs of digital publication and distribution [bookbrunch.co.uk].

Basically, there's a lot of costs that go into publishing a book that have nothing to do with paper or warehouses (both of which are a lot less expensive than we think they are).

Also, the value of an e-book simply must be placed higher than the value of a digital song, based solely on the compensation needs of the artist: how many books can an author be reasonably expected to produce in a year, versus how many songs can a singer/songwriter produce? The average singer will derive some additional compensation from performing; the average author, much less, if any. You want to charge more for a book from an established author, from whom much can be expected, versus from a N00b who's craft is unknown, fine. But you still need to place the benchmark higher than a dollar.

Re:Paper is Cheap; People and Processes are Costly (1)

Omestes (471991) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126796)

Higher than a dollar yes, lower than $14.99 though. And with digital publishing the cost should diminish over time, since the constant costs are pretty much non-existent.

My main problem with the publishers (I almost mistakenly typed "punishers") is the fact that most of the price goes to them, and not the only person that really matters; the author. This is an issue I have with pretty much all of digital media, be it books or music, it seems to be nothing more than an excuse to hurt authors/musicians more. At least that seems the common theme. Well it often seems to be an excuse to gouge customers more, as well, but that goes without saying.

I really wish monolithic publishers would die, in all industries except maybe movies, where they may still be a necessity due to the costs and complications. It has gotten to the point where publishers hinder the industry more than help it. Books especially piss me off. For some reason everyone cut out paperbacks, so the best we can expect is a silly trade paperback which sells for around twice as much as a paperback used to (despite costing almost the same amount to manufacture). Quality has completely died, I have old trashy pulp science-fiction paperbacks from the 60s that are still doing rather well for themselves (i.e. the covers are attached, the spine is attacked, and there was been no breakage of the binding), but pretty much every trade-paperback I have purchased in the last couple of years is lucky to survive two readings. Purchase prices go up, price of manufacturing goes down, portion of cost to the author goes down. This seems to be the theme of everything these days (the modern economy could be defined as the practice of flipping off consumers, and Econ101 classes). Digital distribution is an excuse to continue this trend, authors get even less for it, the cost of production is even lower still, but the price remains irrationally high.

On the bright side, they are probably slowly killing themselves, and feeding the growing piracy channels. Eventually books will reach parity with MP3s, and be extremely cheap (still to expensive, but still...), and almost ubiquitous by extra-legal means. Also, like MP3s, publishers will get very pissed that side channels become more and more available and popular, relegating Daniel Steele and Dan Brown into the land of vastly pirated pop-music, where smaller authors who are self-published, or publish through independent houses rise in popularity and profit.

And then the law suits begin, and the customer and author suffers even more.

Re:Paper is Cheap; People and Processes are Costly (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126988)

How much do you think an author should be paid, net profit, for each of his books acquired and/or read by a consumer?

Re:Paper is Cheap; People and Processes are Costly (2, Interesting)

Omestes (471991) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128470)

No clue. But, actual productions costs willing, I'd say at least 50% of the profits, with the rest divided between the various other parties (publisher, retailer, and whoever latches on). The author should get more than anyone else, since without them the rest would languish and die.

I really have no clue though, since I'm not involved in the industry, and don't know the full break down of the costs of publishing various versions of media.

In short: more.

I do find it odd that digital copies cost less to produce, cost as much as a trade, but authors get far less (generally) per copy. Which mirrors the music industry pretty well, sadly.

Re:Paper is Cheap; People and Processes are Costly (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 3 years ago | (#33131104)

The author should get more than anyone else, since without them the rest would languish and die.
 
Primary producers seem to get the short end a lot. The most common example being farmers -- where would middlemen like Cargill be without farmers? But who's making the big bucks on grain shipments? (Hint: Not the farmers.)

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125062)

Of course ebook prices are fixed (amoungst other digital "goods") - how the hell do you price something that can be copied infinitely at next to zero cost?

Regardless of the cost of copying (either to yourself or to others), you price it at the point that your market estimates say that the expected sales times the sale price will maximize (price * total sales) minus (fixed costs plus (per-unit costs times total sales)).

Low cost of illegal copying probably makes expected sales fall off more sharply with price, but lower cost of legal production also reduces the per-unit cost of the product to you, so it generally reduces the price you can sell it at.

Re:Zero cost copying (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125074)

That's not what "price fixing" means. Price Fixing is when you have three gas stations in town, and the owners agree to keep the same prices and not compete on price. They can all charge ripoff prices, just the same ripoff price each. This is illegal, and is wrong as well.

Re:Zero cost copying (2, Informative)

SailorSpork (1080153) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125094)

What you are talking about not "fixed prices," but "fixed costs." The cost of any good sold has a fixed cost and a variable cost, and technically an eBook has very low variable costs (in this case, mostly distribution) but similar fixed costs to deadwood (editing time, design/typography, etc).

  Price fixing [wikipedia.org], on the other hand, is two companies joining forces to set prices in a market to maximize sales dollars or price out competition unfairly. The wikipedia link is a great reference on that.

  Variable costs and Pricing are not necessarily related in non-commodity goods markets, because then artists would end up making nothing to produce creative works. It would be like saying I'm only going to pay $1 for Starcarft II, because that's what it cost to produce the disk, leaving out the R&D costs, testing, and (God forbid) that someone make some profit by producing a superior entertainment good that "can be copied infinitely at no cost."

Amazon? (3, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124684)

Didn't Amazon just hand over its right to price many new releases to the publishers? I seem to remember Amazon wanting to charge $10 for a new (only in hardcover) release, but the publishers forcing them to increase the price or not carry the books. Of course, that doesn't say anything about cheaper books that are out in paperback...

Re:Amazon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33124926)

I know it's off topic to comment on the sig, but wouldn't it be 0? I mean, a rabbit on the moon isn't going to be alive for very long. Even if it is alive, if it's on the light side, the heat won't be noticeable. And if it's on the dark side, well, it's not going to be warm for long. Are you just demonstrating the MSNBC is useless?

Re:Amazon? (2, Informative)

magical liopleurodon (1213826) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126916)

Yes. And the reason the publishers forced the increase in prices was because of their contracts with apple. The mfn plays into it, but amazon was also forced to go to the agency model because apple said the other vendors couldn't sell to anyone else unless it was through the agency model if they wanted to do business with apple.

AUGH (5, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124726)

Fucking e-books. Why does it cost more to buy an e-book than it does to buy a dead-tree paperback? wtf?

I absolutely adore my nook, but it's filled with public works and books that have been gifted to me...I refuse to pay $10 for a digital copy of a book.

Re:AUGH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33124984)

Mass-produced paperbacks are dirt cheap to actually produce, the price you pay is mostly for writing, editing, and distribution. I'd be totally happy buying books at $1 less than mass-market paperback pricing. $7.50 for a non-DRM epub (which is an actual example I can occasionally find on Fictionwise) is something I do find myself paying.

Re:AUGH (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33125100)

Mass-produced paperbacks are dirt cheap to actually produce, the price you pay is mostly for writing, editing, and distribution

And a 200k text file with the odd tag is expensive? Pulp still requires warehousing, distribution, shelf space, retail overheads. An ebook is about the size of a single webpage plus all the jacascript and css crap it uses. Once a book hits paperback, there's absolutely no reason to not have ebooks under $1, especially as you can't resell them, give them away etc.

Re:AUGH (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126970)

They're still going to cover the cost of editing, advertising, and overhead. Retailers are still going to want their 50%+ markup. Just eliminating printing is only going to save a few bucks.

Now, you might say "hey, hardbacks and paperbacks already covered all those costs, that's like charging LP breakage to mp3 sales". True, now. But as ebook sales grow and paper sales shrink, those costs won't be covered by the paper sales.

Re:AUGH (1)

GreyyGuy (91753) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125500)

Incorrect.

You are right that books are cheap to make (~10% of the cover), and distribute (another ~10%) but the writer only gets around 15%. The retailer gets ~40% of the cover price, and the rest goes to the publisher.

In other words, the business around writing gets more than the writers do.

Re:AUGH (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125590)

I agree with you in principle. It's one of the reasons I haven't gotten an e-reader despite having considering getting one.

That said, the printing costs are almost certain marginal at best, for paperbacks in particular. It's single color requiring a bare minimum of print management; they just have to ensure the content is pretty much centered on the page. It's also printed on the cheapest paper stock available; it's probably a step above newsprint. A good portion of the printing expense probably goes to the cover and even then it's basic CMYK with no special colors and usually printed on one side only. And finally, the print runs tend to be so large that the cost per book is minuscule.

A quick search online has revealed that a rough cost per book for a run of 10,000 books, which is quite low, is $1 per book. That's for self-publishing. The price for a big publishing company is undoubtedly cheaper, I'd say probably as low as 50 cents, and maybe cheaper for larger runs. Hardcover is undoubtedly more expensive to produce but then even is the cost quadruples you're still looking at only $2 per book.

The vast majority of the cost goes to the writer, editing and marketing. And profit, obviously, both to the publisher, distributor and retailer. Every paperback I've seen runs $10-$15, at least in recent years because prices have definitely been going up. I haven't looked at book prices for e-Readers so I can't say what the problem is. Are they charging a set price, $10, for example, across the board? I would say a much bigger issue are the extortionist prices being charged for college textbooks. Do something about that.

Re:AUGH (2, Insightful)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127718)

People tend to forget that with capitalism end user sale price has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with manufacturing cost--it is exclusively related to what people will pay for a product, nothing else (Except, in a few cases, government control).

If someone figured out how to make a home for $45.76 using nanotech or something they will still be able to sell it for $400,000 or $4M as long as someone will pay for it.

This is what makes monopolies so dangerous and government oversight so important.

Re:AUGH (1)

radish (98371) | more than 3 years ago | (#33129190)

Can you give examples? I have a Kindle and while I don't buy a lot of books for it (to be honest I just don't read as much as some people) I don't recall them being overly expensive. I just checked on Amazon, and picking 5 books entirely at random none were more expensive that Amazon's paperback price (note that third party sellers may have it for less but then charge shipping). Now this is obviously fairly new mass market books - maybe it's different for older or more niche titles?

Re:AUGH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33136400)

Fucking e-books. Why does it cost more to buy an e-book than it does to buy a dead-tree paperback? wtf?

I absolutely adore my nook, but it's filled with public works and books that have been gifted to me...I refuse to pay $10 for a digital copy of a book.

Yeah the hell with those authors that put the same amount of work into your electronic copy versus the paper copy. Way to think this one through.

I don't get it. (3, Insightful)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124948)

Aren't e-books selling at levels competitive with physical books?

Aren't they luxury items in the first place?

If the previous two points are true as I believe, it seems kind of silly that the best use of the Connecticut AG's time is making sure people aren't overpaying a few bucks for items they're obviously already comfortable purchasing at that price.

I would rather see a legal investigation into Amazon's and Apple's patent tactics and such. Their portfolios and legal strategies likely cause many more customers of many other companies to overpay many more total dollars for zero value.

But who the fuck am I?

Best use of the Connecticut AG's time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33124970)

Best use of time as determined by election season.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125298)

It's probably best to nip anticompetitive, anti-market practices in the butt before entrenching bad practices and killing the possibility of a genuine marketplace. And e-book sales have the potential for a lot of anti-market practices.

The Connecticut AG is specifically asking them to come in and talk about it, and convince him / her that it is an OK practice. He's not pressing charges or forcing a breakup or anything. This seems reasonable.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127636)

It's probably best to nip anticompetitive, anti-market practices in the butt

Thank you for that; it was amusing. If it wasn't on purpose, the phrase is "nip it in the bud; prune a branch when it is still a bud before it grows into a branch.

If there's collusion between Apple and Amazon, then both need to be slapped hard (or have their butts nipped).

That doesn't hold (4, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125322)

it seems kind of silly that the best use of the Connecticut AG's time is making sure people aren't overpaying a few bucks for items they're obviously already comfortable purchasing at that price.

By that logic, there's never been a damaging monopoly at all - after all, by definition, all the customers are comfortable paying the price charged or they wouldn't be customers, right?

Re:That doesn't hold (-1, Troll)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125616)

With specific regard to luxury items? Damn right.

Also, you use too many commas, and your overall tone comes across as arrogant and standoffish.

Re:That doesn't hold (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33125874)

I'm curious, are you trying to say that books are luxury items, or do you mean e-books specifically. Books aren't "luxury items" unless you define "luxury" as "anything beyond enough food to keep you from starving to death and enough clothes to avoid death from exposure."

Re:That doesn't hold (2, Interesting)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125996)

With specific regard to luxury items? Damn right.

Sorry, but those are not exempt from the law. Also, consider that any price-fixing malfeasance is what is *keeping* them as luxury items. If the price falls, us little people will be able to afford them too. Even that ignores the appalling notion that books should be considered a luxury, but I digress.

Also, you use too many commas, and your overall tone comes across as arrogant and standoffish.

You're a grammar pedant; you mistake simple logical analysis for arrogance; you falsely assume that I give a damn what you think of my 'tone'.

But do have a nice day. ;)

Re:That doesn't hold (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126526)

A few random points to sate my own ego:
-I did not state (or even intentionally imply) that luxury items are exempt from antitrust laws. I said that there has not been a damaging monopoly related to luxury items specifically as there have been with vital raw materials like oil.

-Luxuries tend to be defined by their necessity, not their price. Take a high-end chocolate bar, for example. Hell, any chocolate bar. Perfectly affordable, undeniable luxury.

-If you're going to bother attempting to write persuasively, it is downright silly to not care about your tone as it often has everything to do with how your arguments are received, regardless of their factual accuracy. Your comment about not giving a damn how your tone is perceived reeks of sour grapes.

I don't think you're posting from an intellectually honest position. I also think your "simple logical analysis" is colored with much more emotion and opinion than you are aware.

Re:That doesn't hold (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 3 years ago | (#33132460)

I said that there has not been a damaging monopoly related to luxury items specifically as there have been with vital raw materials like oil.

I suppose that notion of 'damage' would be rather in the eye of the beholder, don't you think? If you have a business being destroyed, you might care. Additionally, as I said before, price fixing is how 'luxury items' remain luxuries. Add some competition and all of a sudden former luxuries are things we can afford. You're also on thin ice calling a $10 book a 'luxury item'.

Your comment about not giving a damn how your tone is perceived reeks of sour grapes.

I don't think 'sour grapes' means wha tyou apparently think it does, unless you have some mechanism under which I might be, what, jealous? Of what?

I don't think you're posting from an intellectually honest position.

Quite so, actually. If I've used any logical fallacies, point them out. What motive would I have?

I also think your "simple logical analysis" is colored with much more emotion and opinion than you are aware.

Good lord, you are too much. I answered your first simple-minded post with logic. I answered your second with bemused sarcasm. This one's getting disdain: don't practice armchair psychology over the internet with people you don't even know. It makes you look like a moron.

Re:That doesn't hold (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 3 years ago | (#33132670)

Jealous?

The implication was you can't help but write in your hilariously condescending tone, so you pretend you have no need to do otherwise, while logic would dictate anyone with a genuine interest in their points being considered would take care with his tone to avoid being immediately disregarded. Get it? Think of "people taking what I say to heart" as the metaphorical grapes you don't give a damn about.

You don't have to be a psychologist to know that people who can relate to others in a constructive manner do so. Just admit you got so excited to talk down to someone you misinterpreted my original post. Me saying this doesn't seem like the best use of the AG's time is a far cry from claiming there's never been a damaging monopoly.

P.S. I love the passive aggressive slights you've been slipping in more frequently since I criticized you.

Re:That doesn't hold (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126180)

By that logic, there's never been a damaging monopoly at all - after all, by definition, all the customers are comfortable paying the price charged or they wouldn't be customers, right?

Exactly, the concept of a "damaging monopoly" is BS, and the truth is that if you examine most successful anti-trust operations (Standard Oil, ALCOA, etc.) , they have been against companies that have dramatically reduced costs for consumers or provided them incredible value, but made their competition angry because they were beating them.

The "real damaging monopolies" have been folks like AT&T where governments empowered them to be monopolies.

Re:That doesn't hold (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126764)

the truth is that if you examine most successful anti-trust operations (Standard Oil, ALCOA, etc.) , they have been against companies that have dramatically reduced costs for consumers or provided them incredible value, but made their competition angry because they were beating them.

I'd love to see analysis of that. The rules are that you can't use a monopoly in one area to undercut your competition in another area. That's damaging simply on face. If those guys hadn't been doing that, they wouldn't have run afoul of Sherman. Indeed, Sherman was created because Standard's activity in exploiting rail dominance to shut down competition in oil was so egregious.

Also, regarding the governmental angle - bear in mind that ALCOA was also able to provide 'incredible value' thanks to government subsidies, in the name of extremely cheap electricity created by TVA.

Re:That doesn't hold (1)

TheSync (5291) | more than 3 years ago | (#33131580)

The rules are that you can't use a monopoly in one area to undercut your competition in another area. That's damaging simply on face.

How is it "damaging to the consumer" if it is lowering the cost to consumers (which is what "undercutting" is)? If so, hurt me more, please!

It may be damaging to other businesses, but that's competition.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125602)

Aren't e-books selling at levels competitive with physical books?

No a single vendor, Amazon.com -- who sells exclusively by internet -- is selling as many ebooks as they are selling hardbacks (not physical books in total.)

That is very far from ebooks selling as well as physical books overall in the market.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125830)

Ah that makes sense.

I'm still kind of surprised by those sales numbers from what I've seen of pricing. I would have figured prices at or greater than paperback + cost of a reader would keep their sales figures laughably low. But then I suppose we've already established my lack of future prospects in the e-books market.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126366)

I would have figured prices at or greater than paperback + cost of a reader would keep their sales figures laughably low.

Not all books for which electronic versions are available -- particularly new releases -- even have a paperback version, so often the relevant cost comparison is to the cost of hardbacks, where the cost of ebooks is favorable, and the cost of the ereader device compares fairly favorably to the cost of bookshelves (especially if you consider the value of the space in the home, etc., in which the bookshelves would reside.)

Re:I don't get it. (1)

slyrat (1143997) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127488)

I would have figured prices at or greater than paperback + cost of a reader would keep their sales figures laughably low.

Not all books for which electronic versions are available -- particularly new releases -- even have a paperback version, so often the relevant cost comparison is to the cost of hardbacks

True, but there are a lot of non-hardback books out there. And having tried to shop around for ebooks it is very difficult to do so. Part of the problem with the price fixing by amazon, or any ebook seller, is that ebook stores are very exclusive. Many stores are the only place you can buy certain ebooks. This makes the price for such a book much higher. If the stores were more open and had a bigger variety of authors and didn't ever have exclusives then prices would most likely be a lot more competitive. It would also help if it was easier for a user to shop for an ebook in the places outside of the one designated for their particular device.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125792)

Aren't they luxury items in the first place?

How do you figure? You could make the case that a Nook or Kindle is actually a money-saving device because you can get all of Google Books or Project Gutenberg for free after paying one time for the hardware. Why does putting the content on an inexpensive electronic device convert them to luxury items? If i buy an eNewspaper, is that a luxury item too?

Re:I don't get it. (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126068)

Where did I say regular books aren't also largely luxury items?

When it comes to life, an item is either a necessity or a luxury. How many people's lives would end as a direct consequence of denying them access to e-books?

Re:I don't get it. (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126184)

"Aren't they luxury items in the first place?"

IMO, no. They are simply a modern media format of an old form of data. Computers are pretty much ubiquitous in a modern 1st world nation anymore, you can even use them at your school and library. Have you hit the unemployment offices in the past few years? They only let you do the searching and stuff on computers now. (At least in this state.)
So having your entertainment and knowledge data in a computer compliant format is pretty much expected these days.

Besides, for many many decades the publishers have whined that the biggest part of their costs were printing, and that's why books weren't cheaper. Well, guess what, digital format and distribution eliminates printing costs. (I don't have exact numbers, but for arguments sake, let's just say digital distribution is the same as physical distribution for costs, though I believe it's significantly lower.) Ok, now you've killed the lion's share of the costs (unless they've been lying to us) and they INCREASE prices?!?!?! Yeah, like that's fair.

I'm not saying there aren't some people out there that understand, check out the Baen Free Library, but the majority of them just want to burn you for as much as they think they can get away with.

Re:I don't get it. (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128000)

Aren't e-books selling at levels competitive with physical books?

No. There is negligible cost associated with e-books; kust throw it on the server. With printed books you have physical media to buy, the media has to be assembled, packaged, and shipped, yet they cost as much as real books. Books made of paper are the luxury items, not e-books.

Grandstanding (4, Insightful)

unixan (800014) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124952)

This is just grandstanding by a politician running for office. Neither Amazon nor Apple are headquartered in Connecticut, which makes the appropriate action for this state AG to make a filing to the FTC.

Except, of course, filing with the FTC just doesn't sound as exciting to voters.

Re:Grandstanding (2, Interesting)

KevinIsOwn (618900) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125844)

This is just grandstanding by a politician running for office.

You can claim grandstanding all you want, but those of us from CT know that Richard Blumenthal goes up against corporations from all around the US all the time. Sometimes they get picked up by the media more than others, but this really ins't anything out of the ordinary for him.

And you can like him or hate him for that, I'll keep this post apolitical, but this is just not unusual for him.

Re:Grandstanding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33126540)

That's why you need to see that he is defeated.

Did Blumenthal see the economic crash coming in 2006? No, but one of his opponents, Peter Schiff [schiffforsenate.com], did.

Connecticut residents need to make sure Peter Schiff [schiffforsenate.com] defeats Linda McMahon in the primary & defeats Blumenthal in the general election.

Re:Grandstanding (1)

RavenChild (854835) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127712)

I believe Apple has retail stores located in Connecticut and I think Amazon might have some sort of presence (can't readily find anything but they could have distribution/data center there). Wouldn't the presence of these companies be enough for the AG to launch his own investigation?

I'm not arguing your point about the grandstanding, I think you're right on target. Investigating two large companies is sure to get some media attention and some "Ooo look! He's doing his job!" from voters.

Re:Grandstanding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33129342)

If either company sells books, physically or electronically, they fall under the jurisdiction of the CT Attorney General and CT laws. It's as simple as that.

Talking to the wrong people (3, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#33124980)

It seems absurd to me to bring in Amazon and Apple over this, when they aren't the ones who set prices (Amazon used to).

I don't see, at all how Apple and Amazon demanding the lowest price offered sets any kind of "floor" beyond the natural floor of the lowest price the publisher is willing to charge. The only thing it affects is the ability to charge a lower price at one vendor than another, but if that were OK how would that help the consumer? That to me would seem to be used to squeeze out a competitor and generally shrink the book market to one clear leader, who could then more easily collude with publishers to keep a higher average price for books beyond loss leaders...

Re:Talking to the wrong people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33125384)

Perhaps he knows what he's doing? Both companies will submit evidence that they don't control the prices, or of the deals done with the publishers. This can then be used against the publishers if anything dodgy is going on. Which is bloody obvious, $10-20 for an ebook. Yeahhhhh, that's fair pricing.

Re:Talking to the wrong people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33126748)

That to me would seem to be used to squeeze out a competitor and generally shrink the book market to one clear leader, who could then more easily collude with publishers to keep a higher average price for books beyond loss leaders...

Err.. exactly? Apple and Amazon are maneuvering for a position to pre-emptively squeeze out other competitors by guaranteeing that they cannot be beat on price. Ever. And, any particular titles are commodities. You think the latest print run of Dune is different than the last? Are people going to care if they buy it from B&N.com or Amazon.com, because one of them is going to offer a better copy of Dune? Nope. Price pretty much is what you compete on.

Re:Talking to the wrong people (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127286)

I don't know what negotiations are like when asking for a lower price from the supplier, but Amazon could, for example, include a guarantee to sell X books (to give the publisher greater profits than at the higher price), or give that publisher more visible placement on the website. This wouldn't be agreeable, though, as Apple would get that price without any other strings attached. In effect, such MFN clauses discourage competition.

"ABOUT TO GRILL"!? (1)

AlgorithMan (937244) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125088)

I'll stop reading slashdot... how credible can a newssite be, which has a headline like THAT?
This headline is one of the worst cases of so called "journalism" that I've ever seen in my entire life!

I think it's only beaten by "Super-Virus kills Superman", which was the headline of the BILD Zeitung [www.bild.de] when christopher reeve died (yes, they used the phrase "kill", which is very very colloquial in germany)...

Folks it is election season! (5, Informative)

ScaredOfTheMan (1063788) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125386)

"Richard Blumenthal (born February 13, 1946) is an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he has been Attorney General of Connecticut since 1991. He is a candidate in the 2010 U.S. Senate election for the seat currently held by Christopher Dodd.[5]"

Nuff said.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Blumenthal [wikipedia.org]

Ironic (1)

drachenfyre (550754) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125404)

It's completely ironic that the government would prevent a corporation from requiring that if it a supplied gives a better price to another customer, it has to give the same price to that corporation. Especially since the GSA requires that any government vendor do the same thing or its a violation of the False Claims Act. So seriously, how is it that an act that hurts the consumer is good for the government?

Politicians continually want it both ways, but this is seriously a waste of tax payers money.

Re:Ironic (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126380)

The only difference is, the Government makes the rules any way they want to.

And that's the only difference that matters.

What about GSA contracts! (1)

peterofoz (1038508) | more than 3 years ago | (#33125870)

"Blumenthal warned in his letter to Amazon (PDF), 'in that MFNs will reduce the publisher's incentive to offer a discount to Amazon if it would have to offer the same discount to Apple, leading to the establishment of a price floor for e-books offered by the publisher.'"

This sounds exactly like how GSA contracts work. More double standards at work here.

http://news.slashdot.org/story/10/07/30/2051249/Justice-Department-Joins-Fraud-Lawsuit-Against-Oracle [slashdot.org]

"Under the contract, Oracle was required to inform the GSA when commercial discounts improved and to offer those same discounts to government buyers."

Those that accuse someone else of bad behavior are most often guilty of the same of offense (in my experience).

Re:What about GSA contracts! (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127446)

As I point out in an above post, the government does not profit from the Oracle contract, they are simply using the systems (as opposed to selling them). If you can tell me who the government should be competing with, and how competition is being stifled with their Oracle contract, maybe you have a point. Until then your post is just apples to oranges.

Re:What about GSA contracts! (1)

peterofoz (1038508) | more than 3 years ago | (#33128360)

Maybe I misunderstood the issue then. I thought the issue was the risk of damage to the economy and consumer as in "...leading to the establishment of a price floor for (insert product here)"

Re:What about GSA contracts! (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33129016)

You have two companies competing to sell ebooks. If they have contracts saying they get the same price on the ebooks, you get a price floor. I could see an argument for MFN clauses being allowable for products that aren't resold, as it doesn't create a price floor for consumers, but I'll leave that to the lawyers and economists to figure out.

As for the government, it is best for the consumer (tax payer) for the government to minimize expenses. Paying for excess profits doesn't do that, so the simplest way for the government to ensure they act in taxpayer's interest is to use MFN clauses. Apple and Amazon represent enough sales their contracts can establish a price floor. Oracle still has to compete and satisfy enough non-government clients that holding prices in light of the government's contract wouldn't likely make sense (I don't know Oracle's client base, maybe I'm wrong here). Sure, you could argue the government still gets a bit of a double standard, but if the government didn't get any it wouldn't be a very effective government.

I guess overall I'm saying MFN clauses are generally anti-competitive and bad for the market, but in the government's case they're a necessary evil given their unique status.

Re:What about GSA contracts! (1)

peterofoz (1038508) | more than 3 years ago | (#33129562)

So it still looks the same to me. Lets let buyers Apple = Government and Amazon = larger corp client, and let a book = Oracle and another book = MS SQLsever.

The only difference is that Apple and Amazon resell what they buy, but that doesn't change the equation here with regards to the purchasing and the MFN contract causing a price floor.

I can't get a better price from Oracle because they would then have to extend that benefit to any MFN contract holders.

Looks to me like the government wants it both ways. Sure they're big, and they're the government. This is why Constitutions are designed to limit government, not to limit people.

Re:What about GSA contracts! (1)

peterofoz (1038508) | more than 3 years ago | (#33129616)

BTW. What's an excess profit? Who gets to decide?

Re:What about GSA contracts! (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33130474)

Because excess profit is hard to define, MFN defines it for us. Think eminent domain (I doubt it applies, but similar logic is in play)- the government says it acts in the interest of the people, so it will pay a fair price and no more. The government isn't in a position to tell Oracle the price, so they trust Oracle to do that for them.

Unless you want the government to waste more time and money bargaining for the best price on everything, it is a lot more simple for everyone if they just use MFN.

The two scenarios still aren't the same- Amazon and Apple (I don't know numbers here)are most of the ebook market, so if they effectively say they get the same price, you get a price floor. The competing companies are getting the same price, eliminating the competition. The government does not compete, so it gets the same price as $Company, but that company is competing with others for the lowest price.

Yes, there will always be the pressure for Oracle or whomever to resist lowering prices as it would only hurt their government contract, but either there is enough of a market outside the government to keep competition, or the market is the government, in which case "best for the consumer" doesn't make much sense (like with companies that just work for government contracts). No, it isn't a perfect solution, but no matter what government contracts will affect the market- I feel the MFN solution is the best compromise (good for taxpayers and uses a price the market sets). In the end it's an argument of what you think the government's role is.

Re:What about GSA contracts! (1)

peterofoz (1038508) | more than 3 years ago | (#33130928)

So you've made my argument. If I can't buy Oracle for a better price to compete with (large company X that has a MFN tied to the GSA contract) thereby limiting competition (from little old me) then the damage is done. Being a reseller of a database or a book is not the issue, MFN talks about the buy price and my observation was that the government is smacking Oracle while the Connecticut AG is smacking Amazon/Apple for the opposite.

I'll agree that the government having an MFN contract is more efficient and beneficial to tax payers, but then penalizing a couple of companies for doing the same thing to guarantee their customers the best price smacks of double standards and seems to run afoul of 'equal protection under the law'.

The competition between book sellers is not eliminated. All you have to do is build an e-book business with volume and negotiate the same MFN contract for the suppliers. Then it comes down to how efficient your operation is and how good your value add is. Its only price fixing if it can be proved that Amazon and Apple are conspiring to set the same selling price, not the buying price. Or that that competing e-book sellers are conspiring to set their selling prices. But that's not the case here.

The AG has it wrong 'in that MFNs will reduce the publisher's incentive to offer a discount to Amazon if it would have to offer the same discount to Apple, leading to the establishment of a price floor for e-books offered by the publisher.' is not anti-trust.

I say - so what? Its not anti-trust to negotiate a buying price. Anti-trust is conspiracy to fix the selling price.

I also think you missed on defining excess profits. (Hint - there is no such thing - this term is a socialist invention)

How? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 3 years ago | (#33126110)

How does offering the same price to two of your distributors discourage you from lowering prices? The publisher will lower prices for a variety of reasons, such as to increase sales or generate publicity, but none of those reasons would seem to be contingent on lowering prices with one distributor and not others.

Re:How? Here's how. (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 3 years ago | (#33130042)

Apple buyers will pay more than Amazon buyers. Good marketing takes advantage of that.

Re:How? Here's how. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 3 years ago | (#33130646)

In that case it's good to see Connecticut protecting the rights of corporations to maximally screw their customers.

Surprised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33126372)

I am surprised that no one linked this to the deal the federal government had with Oracle. If the Connecticut AG thinks that the deals Amazon and Apple have created an artifical price floor, what does he think of the government doing the same?

Or am I missing some difference between the two?

How companies set "high" prices... (2, Insightful)

El Fantasmo (1057616) | more than 3 years ago | (#33127034)

Traditional books cost about $25+ for new hardback and about $8+ for paperbacks. This price includes the cost of materials which were claimed for many years to be a large chunk of the cost. But companies don't use "cost plus" to price things, where "plus" is some arbitrary profit to make over the cost. Companies, now, figure out the MAX people are willing to pay over cost. If it cost $1.00 to produce an ebook, but you're willing to pay $14, you are WILLINGLY paying 1400% markup; that's 1300% profit.

Companies aren't as interested in making a valuable product as they're interested in taking the MAX amount of money from you. This also means, power is in the hands of consumers. If you want the price to come down on "over priced," inexpensive to produce goods with relatively high profit margins, don't buy them unless they are at a price you feel they're worth. Yes, some instant gratification will have to put aside.

More on point, if consumers send the message to Apple, Amazon, Random House et. al. that they won't pay "high" prices for ebooks, then prices will drop across the board regardless of what distributors are charged.

Since when has they ability to more more product and therefore demand a lower price from a supplier been illegal?

Unless the books are all $5 or less, i'm not buyin (1)

Nyder (754090) | more than 3 years ago | (#33131386)

Okay, you stupid corporate pigs.

ya, you.

I'm not fucking paying over $5 for a ebook. ever. If you can't grasp that simple concept, don't bitch when your books get pirated.
I'll pay $15 for a hardback book. I'll pay $8 for a softback book. But an ebook? $5, max.

You see, I can pirate what I want for free. Do you grasp this simple concept? I can get what I want for free. But I'm not an asshole (well, I am, but that's another post), I'm letting you know that I would be willing to pay $5 per ebook, instead of downloading them for free.

If you, the book publishers, want to go hold on to your old ways (get off my lawn) like some stupid old person who can't get with reality, that's fine. Free works in my budget better. But see, like I said, i'm not an asshole (lies), i'm trying to work with ya here.

So, when you realize that making $5 from someone is better then making nothing from that person, for some text, then i'm sure you'll change your prices to reflect that.

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