Author Joe Konrath has written a fantastic letter to the Justice Department
to counter letters sent by the Association of Authors' Representatives and the Authors Guild (and some others), complaining about the DOJ's antitrust lawsuit against certain publishers and Apple to collude to keep ebook prices high. As Konrath notes, these groups don't appear to actually represent authors
, but do seem to be representing the best interests of the legacy gatekeepers.
I’m writing to tell you that these organizations did not solicit the views of their members, that they in no way speak on behalf of all or even most of their members, and that (as I imagine is obvious) they are motivated not by what’s best for consumers, but by what they see as best for themselves.
I recognize that the heart of the DOJ’s suit is collusion, not high prices. But it’s clear that the legacy publishing industry’s strategy is to keep the prices of ebooks high so as not to cannibalize high-margin hardback sales. If the prices of legacy published books are kept artificially high it could be argued that my lower-priced self-published books are made more attractive by comparison, but I believe that a regime of higher-priced books is bad for the industry overall because it slows the growth of the global book market, which indeed hurts all sales. I also believe it’s obviously bad for consumers, especially lower-income consumers, who could buy more of the books they loved if those books weren’t priced so high.
The whole thing is a worthwhile read, and certainly raises questions about who gets to represent whom when such issues come up. For years, we've seen bogus claims that the RIAA represents "musicians" or that the MPAA represents "filmmakers," when nothing could be further from the truth. In this case, though, it's even more egregious, in that these organizations directly claim to represent authors. But, for the most part, they seem to be only be representing the interests of authors already successful under the old system -- and going against every other author (and potential author) out there. In other words, their focus is on protectionism for established players, not what's best for authors as a whole or the consumers they serve with their writing. That's unfortunate.