Friday, February 22, 2013

Leveling the ebook playing field?

Last night I came across a fascinating article, about a DRM Lawsuit Against Amazon.  Apparently three independent booksellers are suing Amazon and the Big Six (the six major publishing houses) because they claim that the Kindle's proprietary format and DRM create a monopoly: Independent booksellers can't sell DRM-protected ebook files that can be transferred from one type of e-reader to another, so consumers are being forced into buying almost exclusively from the big booksellers that produced their devices, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

If this lawsuit wins, it obviously could be a game-changer for the ebook industry.  Can you imagine if there was no longer any DRM, and if Amazon was forced to abandon its proprietary format?  You could buy an ebook from any bookseller, allowing you to shop around for the best price, and load it onto any device, which would mean you could choose your device based on which e-reader or tablet you like the best, rather than which bookseller you want to buy your books from.  It ought to be a given, in our supposed "free market" system, but for anyone accustomed to buying and reading ebooks, it sounds revolutionary!

This is just another in a series of challenges to how the ebook industry functions -- last year the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Apple and the Big Six, claiming that they were price-fixing by colluding with one another and with Apple to set higher prices on ebooks that all other booksellers then had to abide by.  Known as the agency pricing model, this meant that consumers could no longer shop around to find the best deal on an ebook they wanted.  I seem to remember that several publishers dropped out of the agency pricing model, but Apple and the rest of the publishers were still fighting the lawsuit.  I don't remember anything further happening with that, though.

I really hope that the combination of these two lawsuits serves to give consumers more options in how we purchase and read ebooks!

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