The documents from the Department of Justice in the case against Apple and publishers are available online here. The complaint, as downloaded at 8 AM April 12, 2012, has several interesting features. As others have noted, this seems to be primarily a complaint about collusion in the market place, and the allegation that the agency model was designed to specifically create higher prices for e-books than Amazon was offering at the time. What is interesting to those of us with one foot in the publishing world and the other foot in the technology world are the comments about how those two worlds interact.
I.1. Introduction. The definition of e-books.
books sold to consumers in electronic form and read on a variety of electronic devices, including dedicated e-readers (such as the Kindle or the Nook), multipurpose tablets, smartphones and personal computers.
Some authors and developers (including me) think that making a distinction between apps and e-books isn't useful considering the opportunities we now have. It has been clear for some time that e-books (in the broadest sense of the term) can be created from the laid-out pages of traditionally published books or through a separate development process similar to that of apps and games.
According to this definition, e-books must be "read." If an e-book contains enhanced content (music, video, interactive exercises and demonstrations), does that mean it isn't read? Seems to me that listening to a Beethoven symphony provided as part of a biography of the composer isn't reading. Where is the dividing line? Does adding the first four notes of the Fifth Symphony to an e-book retain the e-book status while adding the first movement (or even the entire symphony) push it over into some other, non-e-book category?
There is a further aspect to the definition of e-Books:
Among many other businesses, Apple, Inc. distributes e-books through its iBookstore.
Does this suggest that enhanced e-books sold as apps through Apple's App Store aren't e-books but are something else entirely?
V.The Publishing Industry and Background of the Conspiracy
This is where it gets interesting. A describes Print Books, and B describes E-books. The sections start off similarly:
A. Print Books 23.
Authors submit books to publishers in manuscript form.
B. E-Books 25.
E-books are books published in electronic formats.
We may need to think about what a book is.
C is missing or a last minute deletion or rearrangement. (Cross reference under "conspiracy theory"?)
Penguin Group CEO John Makinson wrote a strategy memo on August 4, 2009
Competition for the attention of readers will be most intense from digital companies whose objective may be to disintermediate traditional publishers altogether. This is not a new threat but we do appear to be on a collision course with Amazon, and possibly Google as well...
Once again, a distinction is being made between e-books as books and e-books (including enhanced e-books) as apps. It's publishers vs. digital companies. Authors and the public may be caught in the middle if every project in this evolving area has to be pigeon-holed as an e-book, an app, or something else. In an ideal world, we would just write, develop, read, and enjoy the story or information in the most interesting and useful manner without paying attention to what it is classified as or where it is sold.
Granted, we make these distinctions all the time (in some states you can buy wine in grocery stores but not in other states). Creative artists have long experimented with breaking down arbitrary distinctions, and audiences often appreciate the results. Not to belabor the point but that big chorus onstage in the Beethoven Ninth Symphony doesn't "belong" there if it's a true symphony or so the genre police might decree.
Any wrongdoing involving collusion obviously should be investigated and punished. But along the way, we must make certain that we do not create arbitrary distinctions that stifle creativity and imagination.