As the legal battle over Apple's e-book price fixing continues, The New York Times suggested in a sharply-worded editorial, titled "Apple Pays Dearly for Price Fixing," that the federal government (which has recommended a series of stringent remedies) should look to the true bully in the digital book wars: Amazon. Curiously, this editorial comes only days after one of The Times's competitors, The Washington Post, was bought by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Last week, a month after Apple was found guilty of collusion with five publishers to set artificially high prices for e-books, the federal government suggested remedies that will keep Apple from trying to conspire with publishers to wrest market share from Amazon. Today, Apple heads to court to argue for a more lenient approach.
In effect, The Times's editorial board is standing with Apple against Amazon, which likes low e-book prices because they indirectly drive purchases of its Kindle reading devices:
Mainly, the Justice Department’s plan will keep Apple from getting back to its old tricks. It does not address the need for a counterweight to Amazon’s dominance. Amazon controls an estimated 65 percent of the market, with Apple at 10 percent and other retailers splitting the rest. (Before Apple started selling e-books, Amazon had 90 percent.) The case against Apple has done nothing to solve that problem.
While the editorial does acknowledge some benefits to the consumer in this arrangement, it clearly sees fault with the Department of Justice's dogged pursuit of Apple and the publishers (who also vigorously object to the government's proposals):
the problem with this case all along was that the department ignored the potentially bigger anticompetitive force in the e-book market — Amazon — while focusing on Apple.
All this comes at a time when The Washington Post has come under the ownership of Amazon chief Bezos, who bought it for $250 million this week. The Times, meanwhile, says it is not for sale. Of course, this proves nothing more than that media intrigue is always fun.