I buy a lot of books—over a hundred a year—and thanks to Apple I now buy some of those books electronically for my iPad. I love the fact that I can be stuck in an airport in Wisconsin and still have instant access to virtually any book, just by touching a few buttons.
I was looking forward to reading about the new iPad this morning, but instead the leading story about Apple is that they and five top book publishers have been threatened by federal antitrust authorities. According to the Wall Street Journal, they are going to be sued for allegedly colluding to fix ebook prices.
There’s so much to say about this story, but here’s the essential thing to keep in mind. Traditional books may come from trees but they don’t grow on trees—and ebooks and ebook readers such as the iPad definitely don’t grow on trees. These are amazing values created by publishers and by companies such as Apple. Those companies have a right to offer their products for sale at whatever prices they choose. They cannot force us to buy them. (If they could, why would they charge only $15? Why not $50? Why not $1000?)
There is no mystically ordained “right” price for ebooks—the right price is the one voluntarily agreed to between sellers and buyers. Sure, some buyers may complain about ebook prices—but they are also buying an incredible number of ebooks.
What in the world justifies a bunch of bureaucrats who have created nothing interfering in these voluntary transactions and declaring that they get to decide what considerations should go into pricing ebooks?