Since acquiring an e-reader last year, one of the great mysteries of life has been why e-books cost so stinking much money, since there’s no ink, no paper and no physical logistics to consider. I had my suspicions, of course, and now the Department of Justice has confirmed them: Apple and most of the big publishers have conspired and colluded to keep prices high.
The lawsuit filed today paints Apple as the architect of the plan, where the major publishers signed identical contracts to make sure nobody undercut the other. The conspiracy was motivated by the frightening specter of Amazon having the guts to actually compete on price. The suit quotes the late great Steve Jobs: “We’ll go to [an] agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that’s what you want anyway.”
Yep, you definitely want to screw your customers. Apple’s made an art of it, and has grown extremely fat and incredibly sleek with just such tactics. Regardless of how the lawsuit plays out — and you know lobbyists and lawyers are shouting into their phones this very moment — it’s nice to get a glimpse behind the ads and see how Apple really views its customers.
E-books are a publisher’s wet dream: You don’t have to produce or deliver anything and you get to charge almost the same price as if you did. Talk about pure profit. Even better, you’ve made sure your customers can’t conveniently lend or resell what they’ve already paid too much for. In a better world, that might translate to lower prices for readers and a wider audience for good writers. Thanks to Apple, that’s not the case.