points us to a letter sent by the American Booksellers Association (ABA) to the Justice Department suggesting that a book price war between Amazon and Wal-Mart
is potentially illegal. What they appear to be saying -- as Shirky also noted -- is that lower prices are a bad thing:
While on the surface it may seem that these lower
prices will encourage more reading and a greater sharing of ideas in the culture,
the reality is quite the opposite. Consider this quote from Mr. Grisham's agent,
David Gernert, that appeared in the New York Times:
"If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10,
publishing as we know it is over. If you can buy Stephen King's new novel
or John Grisham's 'Ford County' for $10, why would you buy a brilliant first
novel for $25? I think we underestimate the effect to which extremely discounted
best sellers take the consumer's attention away from emerging writers."
Basically the booksellers are saying they can't compete in the marketplace. That may be true, but if it's not actually harming consumers, what is the problem? There is no rule that says books must cost $25. If companies can figure out how to sell books for less, in ways that work for their bottom line, then what's wrong with that?