While the Department of Justice lawsuit against the agency model rages on, the question I keep hearing, with a note of desperation, is: “What exactly are they suing about?”

I guess that’s kind of crucial to understanding the lawsuit. And while Appazoogle has written about the agency model in the past, we’ve yet to give you a play-by-play breakdown of the mechanics of this DOJ-angering monster. So here it is: the agency model, to the best of my understanding. With charts.

Book retail

Here’s how book retail normally works. The publisher makes a book. They give the book a list price—say $25. That $25 price tag is the publisher saying, “This is what the book should be worth to a final consumer.” This is important because author royalties are calculated from list price, so in order to balance a profit/loss statement (the financial end of a book proposal), they…

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David Gaughran

As reported yesterday, the Department of Justice has filed its antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five of the largest publishers (Macmillan, Penguin, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster).

A settlement has been agreed with HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster; Macmillan claimed the terms were too onerous, and Penguin appears to have refused to contemplate settling.

The agreed settlement must still be approved by the court, but among the conditions are the end of Agency (despite the attempted spin by PW in the above-linked article) and the return of pricing control to the retailers (such as Amazon). In addition, the settling parties will be monitored by the DoJ, who must be copied on any communications surrounding this or any related matters.

While the DoJ’s case is getting all the attention, it should not be forgotten that all the above parties are also being sued by sixteen State Attorneys-General who are…

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Here’s a pretty novel use of Twitter: follow the Titanic on its voyage towards impending doom – by following @TitanicRealTime. This account seems to be owned by The History Press, a UK-based history publisher.

Some samples:

#officer Clocks keeping bridge time now set back to 11.3p.m. This has extended the third watch by 29 minutes.

#passenger Standing at the front of the ship all I can see ahead is a horizon of water. I look forward to seeing New York.

#crew Clocks have once again been set back on the bridge, now to 3.30a.m. My watch has been extended by 30 minutes.
So yeah, I’m following @TitanicRealTime – at least until 15 April… =)


Elsevier, the world’s largest publisher of scientific journals, doesn’t have many friends of late. Earlier this year, a group of academics led by British mathematician Timothy Gowers started a petition to boycott the publisher—a petition which, as of April 10, included the names of over 9,200 researchers.

The stated impetus of the petition is Elsevier’s high prices and restricted distribution models. In order to understand the issue, we need to go back to 1996 and an initiative called “the big deal.” In a nutshell, the big deal uses economics of scale to bundle electronic access to a group (sometimes hundreds) of journals and sells this access to libraries and library consortia for a fixed fee over a certain period (say, three years). The benefits of this model are that instead of paying full price for each expensive journal subscription, libraries can pay one fee for…

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Beating the drum for DRM?

I finished marking some PUB310 semester tests. In one of the questions, I ask students to suggest criteria that would influence their choice of ebook vendor. A criterion that is often used is the use of digital rights management (DRM) – or at least, the option of providing DRM for titles. According to the memorandum, this statement is part of an acceptable answer.

Given my personal feelings about DRM in general (feelings that are often compounded by Steam), this criterion worries me – especially when presented as a quick solution for  protecting intellectual property. Frankly, I want them to realise that selecting DRM as a default option without considering the effects of that choice is a very bad thing.

In Beating the drum for DRM?, Appazoogle’s Leah Thompson summarises discussions for and against the use of DRM. Leah shows how the Triangle of Fraud – a model used to investigate accounting fraud – can be used to consider the relationship between DRM and piracy. One of the components of this triangle is rationalization: ‘I already own the book version.’ ‘It’s not worth as much as they’re trying to charge.” The other two, pressure (high prices) and opportunity (cheap bandwidth), might imply that lowering prices can play as great a role as reducing opportunities to pirate (such as litigation or access restrictions).