In recent events, the Department of Justice is going after Apple for alleged collusion between Apple and publishers to raise e-book prices. In light of this, The Lariat (Baylor University’s student newspaper), recently posted an article describing how Amazon’s “monopoly” on the e-book market was so harmful, arguing to consumers that we should pay higher prices to other companies to avoid supporting Amazon’s evil practices: “While we may tempted to go to bookstores and use the scanners on our smartphones to look for lower prices on Amazon, we need to ask ourselves who Amazon is sacrificing to create these low prices….Sometimes it’s worth it to pay the higher price.”
Monopolies are bad, right? It’s unfair that Amazon makes so much money at the expense of these poor authors and publishers! That’s what you would want to think after reading the article. But consider the issue again. I did, and this is a letter I wrote to the Lariat:
I found numerous problems with the Lariat’s April 20th article, “Amazon’s Dirt Cheap E-book Prices Hurt Authors.”
The author says, “In the current model, only consumers and Amazon benefit from e-book pricing.” This is rather misleading. If producers and authors did not make a relatively significant profit from the sale of e-books, would they allow Amazon to sell them? In a free market economy, they cannot be “forced to sell their books at low prices” as the author suggests. They can instead sell their books on Apple’s site, or not sell them online at all. That they give Amazon the right to sell their books shows they agree to the pricing terms.
The same concept can be extended to authors, who, if dissatisfied with their share of profits, may approach a new publisher. While typically e-books are cheaper than normal books, the sale of e-books increases the number of books sold. People are more willing to buy a new book if it is $3 on their e-reader, rather than upwards of $10 for a hard copy. E-books are more desirable because they are portable, durable, and easily accessible in a variety of mediums. This actually encourages the art of reading!
It is preferable for consumers to benefit from lower prices. Instead of destroying the art of writing, lower prices allow this form of communication to thrive in a modern marketplace. It is arguable that if a new gas station opened with modernized pumps and gas for $1/gallon cheaper, few would be advocating the old prices to “preserve the integrity of the industry”.
Personally, I prefer paper books, and I will probably never buy an e-reader. That being said, I am quite grateful to Amazon for making books more accessible to other readers who prefer e-books.