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Industry News: DOJ targets Apple, Publishers; Author Solutions for Sale; Libraries, Schools to get access to Potter e-books

March 10, 2012

DOJ to Sue Apple, Five of the Big Six Over e-Book Price Fixing

The Department of Justice has notified Apple and all the Big Six publishers except Random House that it plans to sue them over price collusion resulting from the agency model of pricing. The agency model allows the publishers to set the prices of e-books, with the retailers getting a cut of the cost. The agency model became the rule when Apple switched to it last year, effectively forcing Amazon to go along. Amazon had been selling e-books at a loss. The DOJ would be suing under anti-trust laws. The DOJ is also investigating three publishers’ (Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and HarperCollins) strategy to delay e-book editions after the release of the hardcover version. Any DOJ action would clearly be a victory for Amazon.

Author Solutions On the Sales Block

A couple years ago, Harlequin raised a stink with Harlequin Horizons, a self-publishing imprint that would allow authors rejected by Harlequin to publish under a slightly watered-down version of the Harlequin brand. In response, the Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America all de-listed Harlequin and its imprints as counting toward publication for membership. (The situation was settled when Harlequin rebranded the self-publishing imprint.) Author Solutions, Inc (ASI) was the firm Harlequin partnered with. ASI majority owner Bertram Capital has announced it’s looking to sell ASI as part of its “normal investment cycle.” ASI has more than 1500 employees, with 1200 located in the Phillipines. ASI owns self-publishing imprints AuthorHouse, iUniverse, and xlibris. It has been criticized by Writers Beware’s Victoria Strauss for blurring the line between self-publishing and vanity publishing.

Scholarly-Journal Publishers Oppose Bill that would Make Papers Free After Six Months

A coalition of 81 publishers of scholarly journals has announced its opposition to the Federal Research Public Access Act, which would require that scholarly papers resulting from Federal Grants be made available for free six months after publication. The Association of American Publishers also opposes the act. Under the bill, such papers would be available free in a federal repository six months after publication. Publishers can currently charge for articles up to seven years after they are published. This is the third attempt at this legislation since 2006.

Pottermore to Open in April; Harry to be Available to Libraries

After six months of delays resulting from testing, the Pottermore website, a site aimed at creating an online Harry Potter experience (and selling Harry Potter e-books) will launch in early April, according to an announcement on the Pottermore blog. In more important news, Pottermore also announced a deal with OverDrive that would result in libraries and schools having access to Harry Potter e-books. This announcement comes after other publishers (specifically Penguin) have pulled back on e-book availability to libraries.

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