Dog-Eared and Dispatched: December 8, 2013
It’s quickly turning into a blustery December, literary citizens, so it’s only fitting that the news we’re sharing this week is apt to light a fire in your heart (composed of an unequal mixture of ire and elation, we suspect). In this week’s rundown of the wild world of book culture, we examine the news surrounding Amazon’s latest announcement: their futuristic flying delivery drones. Next, we investigate the growing tension between Apple and their court-appointed antitrust monitor, Michael Bromwich, including the most recent orders from Chief Justice Denise Cote. Finally, we turn our focus to the north as Quebec gears up for a trial run of their government-approved price fixing law on all books.
“In a move that should surprise nobody in its impracticality, its ambition, or its hilariously sinister overtones, Amazon has announced plans to begin package delivery by drone,” wrote Melville marketing manager Dustin Kurtz. Informally referred to as “octocopters” by Amazon’s R&D team, these drones are being designed to deliver packages approximately 30 minutes after purchase. Some estimates have put the launch date for these drones as early as 2015, pending FAA approval. Referring to the Amazon scheme as “outlandish,” Nick Hyde, CNET UK’s managing editor, noted that Amazon boss Jeff Bezos released the drone announcement “at a time convenient to highlighting his company’s Christmas deals.” Those opposed to Amazon’s drone strike aren’t giving up without a fight, with the U.K.-based bookstore chain Waterstones satirically announcing the launch of their Ornithological Waterstones Landing Service (OWLS) this week. And then there’s also the (totally unsubstantiated) potential for retaliation by Walmart — which, in the case of mutual destruction, might result in a win-win for bookstores and businesses everywhere. [MobyLives, CNT, Metro, Rock City Times]
Apple, Inc. has filed a complaint against Michael Bromwich, their court-appointed antitrust monitor. According to Apple, Bromwich’s first invoice—which covered a span of only two weeks—was listed at $138,000, placing his hourly rate around $1,100 (excluding a 15% administrative fee). Such fees aside, Apple attorneys are more concerned with the degree to which they believe Bromwich is overstepping the parameters of his position, claiming that Bromwich is acting akin to “an independent investigator whose role is to interrogate Apple personnel about matters unrelated to the injunction in an effort to ferret out any wrongdoing, all at Apple’s expense.” This type of interrogation may very well be court approved, however, with Judge Denise Cote granting Bromwich the right to interview all Apple executives ex parte (i.e., without the presence of corporate counsel) as of November 21. In their objection, the company has stated, “Mr. Bromwich has already shown a proclivity to leap far beyond his mandate, and now this Court proposes amendments that would give him power to interview Apple personnel ex parte, something he will no doubt be quick to exploit. Indeed, the day after the Court filed its proposed amendments, Mr. Bromwich directly contacted Apple’s entire Board of Directors, citing the Court’s order and encouraging them to promote a ‘direct relationship’ between the company liaisons and the monitoring team that is unfiltered through outside counsel . . . To the extent the Court actually intended to unleash Mr. Bromwich as its agent in this manner, such order transforms the Court from an impartial arbiter of ‘Cases’ and ‘Controversies’ into Apple’s litigation adversary.” [Publishers Weekly, Fortune]
On Wednesday, December 4, Quebec’s Minister of Culture and Communications, Maka Kotto, announced that the government has agreed to enact a price fixing law for all books in Quebec. Scheduled for a three year trial run following the current holiday season, this law will allow for a 10% maximum discount on new releases within the first nine months of publication. “I am proud to announce that the government is going ahead with this measure that will protect the identity and culture of Quebec,” Koto stated , further asserting that “books are not like other commodities.” While this price fixing law will be applicable to all print and digital books sold in the province, the Quebec government hasn’t fleshed out how this new ruling will be applied to international online retailers. Katherine Fafard of ALQ (Quebec’s Independent Booksellers’ Association) said that this news was “the oxygen that booksellers needed to go on. And 36 months is exactly what the ALQ was asking for in order to make the transition towards digital books . . . everybody is in agreement that this law won’t solve all of our problems.” [Publishers Weekly, Global News]