The United States Department of Justice is suing Apple — along with publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster — for allegedly colluding to fix eBook prices. It sounds like a boring lawsuit…until you hear the details. It sounds like something out of The Sopranos — clandestine CEO meetings in private rooms at Manhattan restaurants, emails discussing how to take out Amazon, and Apple manipulating publishers so it didn’t have to compete at all. The details read more like an Aaron Sorkin script than a lawsuit.
The excellent Nilay Patel from The Verge has gone through the DOJ’s complaint. Here’s my favorite part:
The DOJ alleges that from around September of 2008 to sometime in 2009, all the publishing CEOs would gather in the “private dining rooms of upscale Manhattan restaurants” and talk business — specifically, how to handle Amazon. The most common of these private rooms was called “The Chef’s Wine Cellar,” in a restaurant called Picholene, but some were also held in a restaurant called Alto.
Patel’s article has all sorts of great details on the DOJ’s allegations. It’s pretty awesome. Keep in mind that Patel used to be a lawyer, so his perspective on legal skirmishes is better than what most tech writers bring to the table.
The situation is a testament to how powerful Amazon and Apple have become, especially compared to book publishers. Personally, I’m surprised the lawsuit is happening at all. Perhaps I’m cynical about money in general, but I assume that price fixing happens all the time and a lot of it involves the government. I suppose the most important question is this: Did the CEO meetings resemble a mafia meeting or did they look more like a Jedi council powwow?
[Via: The Verge]