Dog-Eared and Dispatched: August 25, 2013It’s been a week full of strategizing in the wild world of book culture. While revising their injunction proposal, DOJ attorneys have lessened their suggested restrictions against Apple while targeting a greater portion of their ire toward MacMillan Publishers. Meanwhile, Quebec’s government has initiated their own book pricing discussions, taking a more favorable perspective on how price fixing could impact small booksellers. While indie booksellers and publishers in the U.S. turn to Canada for some inspiration and hope, Barnes and Noble looks for new strategies to boost their sales after an 87 million dollar loss during their first quarter. On the other end of the spectrum, Open Road Integrated Media received 11 million dollars in investment funds this week and started a new partnership with Peachtree Publishing. Finally, Amazon may need to steel itself for an as-yet-unheard-of level of competition as Overstock introduces “Club O Dollars” and makes preparations for permanently price-matching the massive online retailer.
The latest draft of the Department of Justice’s injunction proposal includes a slightly softened stance against Apple, with DOJ attorneys now focusing a greater portion of their judgment on MacMillian, the last of the “Big Five” publishers to settle during the price fixing case and certainly the most openly opinionated of the lot. According to the newest version of the DOJ’s proposal, Apple would still be forced to terminate its standing contracts with the defendant publishers. However, the opportunity for Apple to renegotiate with each of the publishers in question would be reduced from a flat five years to a scaffolded two to four years, with the specific length of each ban determined by the order of the publishers’ settlement. MacMillan, unsurprisingly, faces the longest interdiction of a full four years. [Publisher’s Weekly]
While the court’s ruling in the DOJ vs. Apple case has set a precedent against price fixing in the United States, the Quebecois government may be looking to establish regulations of an opposing nature. On Monday, August 19, the provence began deliberating over whether or not to fix book prices and discounts as a way of assisting small bookstores and publishers. One business model being considered would mandate that all books sold in Quebec—including those purchased online and as e-books—be listed at an equivalent retail price. The Union of Quebec Writers (UNEQ) has been campaigning for this cause over the past year, with one of their desired stipulations that resellers not be allowed to slash prices beyond 10 percent on new releases during the first nine months of a book’s publication. Arguments against the proposed price fixing models speak to the strain such prices would put on lower to middle-income families and the market’s growth overall, among other reasons. The debate continues for now, with Quebec’s Association of Public Libraries (ABPQ), the National Association of Book Publishers (ANEL), and Montreal’s Economic Institute among the organizations scheduled to weigh-in on the matter during next week’s hearings. [CTV Montreal, Publisher’s Weekly]
In the wake of Barnes and Nobles’ $87 million first quarter loss, talk centered around the possibility of B&N chair Len Riggio’s purchase of the retail business. However, on August 20, Riggio announced he was not taking any action to purchase the company’s retail division while still noting that he “reserve[s] the right to pursue an offer in the future.” While industry analysts continue to play the “will-he-won’t-he” prediction game regarding Riggio’s future maneuvers, B&N is focusing its retail strategies for a more successful second quarter on new management teams and Nook Media’s development of a new Nook device scheduled for release during the holiday season. [Publisher’s Weekly]
Open Road Integrated Media experienced an 11 million dollar increase in finances this week. Investments in the e-book publisher and digital marketer came from NewSpring Capital, Kohlberg Ventures, Azure Capital, and Golden Seeds, with NewSpring Capital’s contribution topping the list at $8 million. Open Road founder and CEO Jane Friedman explained that these investments will be used to expand the firm’s business development and international marketing efforts, as well as enhance the technology of Open Road’s digital marketing platform. The company has already begun to experience the positive effects of their new capital, entering into a partnership with Peachtree Publishers to release digital editions of the press’ publications. “While we feel like we have hit our stride, as we started to look toward the future, we realized there is still much to be done—with the goal in mind of helping authors reach more readers than ever before,” Friedman stated in her announcement on Open Road’s blog, “We want Open Road to be the premier digital publishing and marketing company for many years to come, and we have many new ideas that we want to put into practice.” [AppNewser, Publisher’s Weekly, Open Road]
Over the last few weeks, Overstock has been lowering its prices to match that of Amazon in a very public battle against the mammoth online retailer. Much speculation has occurred regarding how long Overstock can maintain this stand. This week, Overstock’s Chief Executive Patrick Byrne announced that the company has crafted a strategic plan to permanently match Amazon’s prices, going so far as to hire an outside firm to review Amazon’s site daily in order to ensure that the companies’ prices are equal. In addition to this, Overstock has also introduced ” Club O Dollars” for members of its loyalty program. “Club O” card holders will receive electronic discounts equivalent to 15 percent of a book’s price to be used toward future purchases. “Last month we started a book pricing war with Amazon,” Byrne said in a statement to Publisher’s Weekly. “We’re hoping to continue that battle, in a way that lessens any harm to the mom-and-pop booksellers we consider our comrades in arms.” [The Wall Street Journal, Publisher’s Weekly]