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US government files antitrust suit against Apple over e-book pricing [u]

post #1 of 252
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An antitrust suit accusing Apple and a number of book publishers of price fixing and collusion was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday [updated].

The complaint was filed in a New York district court against Apple, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, and Penguin, according to Bloomberg. Indications first surfaced on Tuesday that the Department of Justice was readying an antitrust suit.

The justice department is expected to settle with "several publishers" this week, as Reuters reported earlier that Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan and HarperCollins are involved in negotiations. Apple and Macmillan have reportedly refused to engage in settlement talks, and have argued that Apple's pricing agreements have enhanced competition in an industry that was previously dominated by Amazon.

Update: Court filings have revealed that Simon & Schuster, Hachette and HarperCollins did, in fact, settle their cases.

Word of the government's interest in e-book price fixing first came to light in March, when it was revealed that the Department of Justice had warned Apple and five major publishers of its plans to sue them. The government has taken issue with Apple's alleged role in convincing e-book publishers to switch to an "agency model" for sales, rather than the "wholesale model" that Amazon had implemented with its own Kindle store.

Under Amazon's method, publishers would sell their books at wholesale and let the bookseller set its own prices. Amazon repeatedly upset publishers by selling titles at a loss.




Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said himself to biographer Walter Isaacson that publishers "hated" Amazon's method, and the online retailer had "screwed it up." Because of that, Jobs said, publishers were willing to switch to the agency model and partner with Apple.

"We told the publishers, 'We'll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that's what you want anyway,'" Jobs said. "But we also asked for a guarantee that if anybody else is selling the books cheaper than we are, then we can sell them at the lower price too. So they went to Amazon and said, 'You're going to sign an agency contract or we're not going to give you the books.'"

[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 252
Apple should fight the US Justice department in court on this, they have more money than the USA anyways, just stretch it out for years and years and the US govt will just go bankrupt. lol
post #3 of 252
Definitely not surprised. Apple seems to have this market locked down tight.

 

 

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post #4 of 252
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Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post

Apple should fight the US Justice department in court on this, they have more money than the USA anyways, just stretch it out for years and years and the US govt will just go bankrupt. lol

Aren't they already bankrupt

 

 

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post #5 of 252
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Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post

just stretch it out for years and years and the US govt will just go bankrupt. lol

Stretch it out for seconds, you mean. We're already bankrupt.

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post #6 of 252
This should be interesting.

Apple will be given the green light to drive Amazon out of business by undercutting prices of books bought under a Government sanctioned wholesale model.
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post #7 of 252
Looks like Apple is going to fight this and, imho, I think they should. It is at the core of Apple's business model for selling E-books.

It's not like Apple doesn't have enough money to fight this for a long time.

After all... Apple's lawyers were probably looking for something to do...
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post #8 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

This should be interesting.

Apple will be given the green light to drive Amazon out of business by undercutting prices of books bought under a Government sanctioned wholesale model.

I'd be surprised if Apple thought books were so important to their business model that they'd take a loss on them. That doesn't sound very Apple-like.
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post #9 of 252
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Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Stretch it out for seconds, you mean. We're already bankrupt.

Not in terms of having a private institution in charge of our currency that will simply buy government bonds itself using freshly printed money, so... Nope, doesn't sound like bankruptcy to me. How can you be broke when you have a friend who will print fresh money to buy your bad debt no matter what you do?

My favorite line to hear is people saying "The U.S. needs to help with X or Y - it's the richest nation on earth!". Try the most in-debt at this point. Not sure how that qualifies as richest unless debt is a resource. \
post #10 of 252
I know many people here are Apple fans...but look at this objectively.

Since Apple's price fixing with publishers (and make no mistake, that's what the "minimum book price" is exactly), the cost of new novels for eBooks has gone up from $9.99 to nearly $20. It is literally cheaper for me to go to the local brick & mortar store and buy a brand new hardcover than to download an eBook.

There's nothing wrong with Apple's agency model. The problem is with them mandating a minimum (high) book price that no one can undercut. That, quite literally, eliminates competition.

If Google or Amazon did this, the lot of you would be screaming bloody murder. Time for some objectivity, no?
post #11 of 252
Lets see. I bought two books this past week. I went to iBooks and saw that they were more expensive there, than Amazon. So I bought them in Kindle format from Amazon. What is the problem here?
post #12 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asherian View Post

I know many people here are Apple fans...but look at this objectively.

Since Apple's price fixing with publishers (and make no mistake, that's what the "minimum book price" is exactly), the cost of new novels for eBooks has gone up from $9.99 to nearly $20. It is literally cheaper for me to go to the local brick & mortar store and buy a brand new hardcover than to download an eBook.

There's nothing wrong with Apple's agency model. The problem is with them mandating a minimum (high) book price that no one can undercut. That, quite literally, eliminates competition.

If Google or Amazon did this, the lot of you would be screaming bloody murder. Time for some objectivity, no?

OK, let's look at this with some objectivity.

The court case has just started. Let's see what they have to say.

Let's try not letting our "feelings" about Google or Amazon get in the way.
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post #13 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrstep View Post

Not sure how that qualifies as richest unless debt is a resource. \

Debt is a resource because if we default on ours, the world economy collapses.

You can say the same for oil. Hence, debt is a resource.

A LITTLE debt isn't. Like we can grow rice in the US. But it's not prevalent enough to really be considered a staple. But elsewhere in the world

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post #14 of 252
How can this possibly be an anti-trust issue. Apple let the seller of the product set their own selling price!!!!! There is absolutely nothing illegal about that. Meanwhile Amazon sells products at a loss and put major book sellers out of business - they took out competitors. Seems like that is the very definition of anti-competitive. Fight them tooth and nail Apple! Since when is buying products below cost a consumer right?
post #15 of 252
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Originally Posted by emig647 View Post

Definitely not surprised. Apple seems to have this market locked down tight.

I don't think it's the fact that they OWN the market -- it's that the Justice Department is going after them for "fixing prices LOWER." The complaints are obviously from other e-book sellers like Amazon, who don't want the "iTunes factor" taking hold. Amazon sells music cheaper than Apple -- but they aren't a music producer and that's just business.

Signing authors and giving them little in compensation, while charging outrageously for eBooks is the business model as it stands.

I haven't looked at the details, but I'm going to go with my "spider sense" and assume that Apple is doing a simple, across the board contract that allows authors to gain more money, cut out the middle man, and consumers to have a consistent price -- just like they did with the music industry.

The musician who makes a hit with iTunes could ACTUALLY make a good living from just selling music, rather than as a loss leader to promote concert tours (which is the business model for all but the few top musical acts who got a good deal).



Our Justice Department is only a club that is wielded on those companies who dare to do something of value for the consumer. If only Apple could cover their eBooks with mercury, and use child labor while paying authors nothing and jack the price up -- we'd never hear a word about "price fixing."
post #16 of 252
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Originally Posted by kent909 View Post

Lets see. I bought two books this past week. I went to iBooks and saw that they were more expensive there, than Amazon. So I bought them in Kindle format from Amazon. What is the problem here?

If this is true, which book it is?

Because that publisher is in violation of their agreement with Apple -- assuming it was one of the major publishing houses.
post #17 of 252
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Originally Posted by FreeRange View Post

How can this possibly be an anti-trust issue. Apple let the seller of the product set their own selling price!!!!! There is absolutely nothing illegal about that.

Many people seem to not comprehend the issue. The issue is not the agency model (setting their "own price").

The issue is Apple's condition that no one else ever sell it for less than Apple. This eliminates competition by definition. All other stores must use the price from the iBookStore and never offer it for less. This is quite literally price fixing. Price fixing is most definitely illegal.
post #18 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by island hermit View Post

Looks like Apple is going to fight this and, imho, I think they should. It is at the core of Apple's business model for selling E-books.

It's not like Apple doesn't have enough money to fight this for a long time.

After all... Apple's lawyers were probably looking for something to do...

I'm not sure that Apple saying "we'll offer you this pricing model, but only if you let us price lower if others price lower" qualifies as Apple cutting down on competition. Apple isn't the largest book seller, and the publishers themselves decided to make Amazon change models, which is (you'd think?) their right. If they shoot themselves in the foot doing so, that's their own problem.

But the other interesting thing to me is just why publishers would care about setting the prices directly - they got to set a wholesale price (say it was 70% of the expected retail) that everyone paid. If Amazon wanted to sell at a loss to kill their competition let them, and presumably THAT would be investigated as it actually kills off the competitors. Them messing with the pricing model themselves just shifted the focus - I just can't imagine that Amazon under-pricing to run others out of business was somehow more legit than going to an agency model.

But overall my issue with iBooks is that I can't read them on my Mac or Kindle thanks to the DRM - the DRM in general needs to go like it did with online music. It's not like you can't find book torrents out there, so locking them down is just another stupid RIAA/MPAA type of anti-consumer action. How about the government looks into that if they're looking to protect consumers?
post #19 of 252
Apple has no right to control what prices a supplier provides to other customers. If they want a supplier to be exclusive, fine. However, Apple should not be able to interfere with other supplier contracts.
post #20 of 252
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Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

I'd be surprised if Apple thought books were so important to their business model that they'd take a loss on them. That doesn't sound very Apple-like.

30% gross profit isn't that much gross profit. Apple spends money on maintaining, supporting iTunes, they also have to pay a portion of that money to Akamai for content delivery, which costs money that Apple pays for, and advertising their on-line store costs money. Books, videos, and music should be distributed where one company doesn't get any better pricing than another. Some companies have tiered pricing where you get better pricing for higher quantity which squeezes out the mom and pop stores.

I think that the download version should be priced less than the physical version, just like download content and the actual physical CD, and these companies should be able to have a 30% markup. 30% is not that greedy.

How this has been positioned is that Apple just wants to pay no more than anyone else. That's what I read when I review the articles written.
post #21 of 252
Monopoly abuse is using dominance in one market to gain an advantage in another. Apple is clearly guilty of that in forcing changes to Amazon's contracts with publishers.

The question of what is right is secondary.
post #22 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by kent909 View Post

Lets see. I bought two books this past week. I went to iBooks and saw that they were more expensive there, than Amazon. So I bought them in Kindle format from Amazon. What is the problem here?

Apple and the book publishers colluded to raise the price of eBooks and force Amazon's and the consumer's hands. Your books are probably not the from the publishers originally alligned in the agreement.
Steve Jobs was trying to dissolve Amazon of its market share of eBooks by launching Apple's own bookstore and by forcing Amazon to raise prices.
The US is right in this case. (duck)
Did Amazon hire lobbyists for this?
post #23 of 252
1) Bottom line: Apple will get to control what their eBooks sell for, get to buy books at wholesale price, and have a better association with publishers than Amazon, thereby coming out even better than before with customers and publishers being hurt by Amazon's greed.

2) Why isn't the DoJ on Amazon about dumping, exclusive dealing and an attempt at refusal to deal?

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post #24 of 252
If the Government needs more money, they should have money invested in Apple stock and make a good 35 to 60% year to year return on investment. It certainly pays more than hiring attorneys to go after certain companies, which is what this sounds like. It just sounds like they are trying to fleece Apple, because someone is jealous.
post #25 of 252
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Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"We told the publishers, 'We'll go to the agency model, where you set the price, and we get our 30%, and yes, the customer pays a little more, but that's what you want anyway,'" Jobs said. "But we also asked for a guarantee that if anybody else is selling the books cheaper than we are, then we can sell them at the lower price too. So they went to Amazon and said, 'You're going to sign an agency contract or we're not going to give you the books.'"

This should be interesting. I'm not sure how this qualifies as antitrust against Apple since they weren't in the position of a monopoly at the time. On the other hand, anything where "the customer pays a little more," and that's going to wind up as an across-the-board "little more" because of Apple's potential market dominance seems sketchy. On the other other hand, consistently selling products at a loss to maintain market dominance sounds a lot dumping and is sketchy as well---though Amazon's just a retailer and not the manufacturer, so who knows.

If this goes all the way to trial it should be interesting. It definitely sucks that the prices for my Kindle books have steadily risen since Apple got into the marketplace.
post #26 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asherian View Post

Many people seem to not comprehend the issue. The issue is not the agency model (setting their "own price").

The issue is Apple's condition that no one else ever sell it for less than Apple. This eliminates competition by definition. All other stores must use the price from the iBookStore and never offer it for less. This is quite literally price fixing. Price fixing is most definitely illegal.

Apple simply reserves the right to lower the price in their store to match the price in any other store. It's not an agreement to never do it, and it's not up to the seller to monitor prices everywhere and adjust the iBooks prices accordingly. It's just giving Apple flexibility to lower prices to match competitors, despite the seller otherwise getting to set their own prices.
post #27 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

Monopoly abuse is using dominance in one market to gain an advantage in another. Apple is clearly guilty of that in forcing changes to Amazon's contracts with publishers.

The question of what is right is secondary.

To do what? To give Apple customers a way to use Apple as a source of content where it is priced similar.

The whole problem is the book publishers are just stupid. They should just simply have a list price for the hard cover version and the digital download version should be cheaper and then give a 30% or more discount to their retailers and leave it at that.
post #28 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asherian View Post

Many people seem to not comprehend the issue. The issue is not the agency model (setting their "own price").

The issue is Apple's condition that no one else ever sell it for less than Apple. This eliminates competition by definition. All other stores must use the price from the iBookStore and never offer it for less. This is quite literally price fixing. Price fixing is most definitely illegal.

What you're outlining is different than Apple saying "we'll let you set the price, but if others sell lower we want the right to price lower as well". The publishers deciding to then push Amazon to the same agency model may be an issue, but Apple asking for the right to lower pricing to compete shouldn't have been.

Of course, the reality is that Apple wanted an agency model to lure deals, publishers wanted the higher prices, and neither was compatible with Amazon selling below cost since Apple matching the lower price would have put the publishers cut below their own wholesale. And of course Apple didn't want to have to buy wholesale and then watch Amazon sell lower and steal their thunder, presumably.

But I'm not clear that a publisher saying 'you can sell our book, but only at this price' should be illegal, particularly if the only way you were pricing it lower was by selling at a loss. Ah well, a bunch of crap for them to look into.
post #29 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asherian View Post

I know many people here are Apple fans...but look at this objectively.

Since Apple's price fixing with publishers (and make no mistake, that's what the "minimum book price" is exactly), the cost of new novels for eBooks has gone up from $9.99 to nearly $20. It is literally cheaper for me to go to the local brick & mortar store and buy a brand new hardcover than to download an eBook.

There's nothing wrong with Apple's agency model. The problem is with them mandating a minimum (high) book price that no one can undercut. That, quite literally, eliminates competition.

If Google or Amazon did this, the lot of you would be screaming bloody murder. Time for some objectivity, no?

Nonsense. Apple said, "But we also asked for a guarantee that if anybody else is selling the books cheaper than we are, then we can sell them at the lower price too." Therefore they were saying they could sell lower too. NOT "no one can sell lower". The publishers saw that Amazon was actually ruining their business and that of their other customers by commoditizing their products and driving prices way down below cost to the detriment of the industry.
post #30 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

2) Why isn't the DoJ on Amazon about dumping, exclusive dealing and an attempt at refusal to deal?

Dunno. Maybe nothing illegal about Amazon's model (no doubt it's come up)? Maybe one thing at a time and Amazon's is still to come?
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post #31 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by Asherian View Post

Many people seem to not comprehend the issue. The issue is not the agency model (setting their "own price").

The issue is Apple's condition that no one else ever sell it for less than Apple. This eliminates competition by definition. All other stores must use the price from the iBookStore and never offer it for less. This is quite literally price fixing. Price fixing is most definitely illegal.

That's just wrong.

The publisher can't sell it for less to any other retailer. If the retailer wants to then sell certain books at a loss, or cheaper than Apple but with less margin, then that is up to them. Retailers have been selling loss leaders for years and years in the hope that while a customer is in the store buying the on-sale books they will then pick up a couple of other more profitable items.
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post #32 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Why isn't the DoJ on Amazon about dumping, exclusive dealing and an attempt at refusal to deal?

Based on the wikipedia definition, I think there's probably an argument that none of the criteria for dumping are met by Amazon's practices. There was no competitive market for e-books, they weren't trying to force competitors out of the market, and they didn't seem interested in raising the prices later.

On the other hand, if you clump e-books in with their equivalent hardcopy books, then dumping e-books to drive hardcopy competitors out of business does seem to meet one of the criteria, however it's still not obvious that they intended to raise the prices on e-books once hardcopy competitors were gone. They probably expected to just drive down their wholesale costs from the publishers, just like Wallmart does with their suppliers.
post #33 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

Monopoly abuse is using dominance in one market to gain an advantage in another. Apple is clearly guilty of that in forcing changes to Amazon's contracts with publishers.

The question of what is right is secondary.

So in what market did Apple use their dominance to gain advantage in the ebook business? Apple came to the tablet business with the iPad with zero market share at the same time they announce their entry into the ebook business.
post #34 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

To do what? To give Apple customers a way to use Apple as a source of content where it is priced similar.

The whole problem is the book publishers are just stupid. They should just simply have a list price for the hard cover version and the digital download version should be cheaper and then give a 30% or more discount to their retailers and leave it at that.

Exactly. Sticking to the wholesale model would have been fine - they DO set the price, just not the market price. Let Apple, Amazon, B&N, etc. fight the rest out themselves. I'm sure the publishers concern was that Amazon would drive everyone else out of business, then come back with 'if you want to sell, it's going to be at $2 a book' (a la iTunes?), and publishers wanted to avoid that. Apple certainly didn't give an agency model deal to music producers.
post #35 of 252
This is the same agency that filed the failed anti-trust suit againsts Microsoft.

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post #36 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by jukes View Post

Based on the wikipedia definition, I think there's probably an argument that none of the criteria for dumping are met by Amazon's practices. There was no competitive market for e-books, they weren't trying to force competitors out of the market, and they didn't seem interested in raising the prices later.

On the other hand, if you clump e-books in with their equivalent hardcopy books, then dumping e-books to drive hardcopy competitors out of business does seem to meet one of the criteria, however it's still not obvious that they intended to raise the prices on e-books once hardcopy competitors were gone. They probably expected to just drive down their wholesale costs from the publishers, just like Wallmart does with their suppliers.

You're right, there was no competitive market for eBooks because Amazon had a monopoly which could be argued was illegally had and maintained as a direct result from dumping.

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post #37 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by FreeRange View Post

Nonsense. Apple said, "But we also asked for a guarantee that if anybody else is selling the books cheaper than we are, then we can sell them at the lower price too." Therefore they were saying they could sell lower too. NOT "no one can sell lower". The publishers saw that Amazon was actually ruining their business and that of their other customers by commoditizing their products and driving prices way down below cost to the detriment of the industry.

A distinct creative work (e.g., a book) can't be commoditized.
post #38 of 252
Apple isn't fixing prices lower.

IN fact, John Stossel's book; "No, They Can't" is $12.99
http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/no-t...55695148?mt=11 Act NOW before they run out!

That's about $9 more than what I'd pay for brand new kitty litter lining. How can I use a Stossel book to keep the cat pee and poop from getting on the plastic tray at that price?

"Stossel, a self-described skeptic, he has dismantled society's sacred cows with unerring common sense. Now he debunks the most sacred of them all: our intuition and belief that government can solve our problems."

Wow. Stossel is man enough to do exactly what Oil Companies, the NRA, and finger wagging Arizona governors have done. He joins the ranks of every asshole on TV in showing how tough they can be talking crap about big G. Apparently, he's a skeptic about Democratic elections of representatives. Perhaps he's suggesting massive bake sales and pot lucks at churches, coupled with a meeting of elders as a way for people to organize and build things like electric grids and bridges -- who can say what goes on in the mind of a champion?

Stossel gets the endorsement of NYT and Fox news commentator -- it really doesn't matter which one -- as they are ALL glorious, brave, mavericks who dismantle society's sacred cows; like Teacher's Unions, wages, benefits, promoting 401ks that lose half their value in an "oops year" versus Pensions, and of course, making fun of Urban hi-jinx.

do I hate and loath John Stossel? Yes I do.

Is Apple charging too much for their Fox News friendly kitty liner for protofascists who are working to undermine this country? No. No they are not. I'd prefer it to be $30 and self destruct after 10 hours.

OK, but for actual books of value -- I think a price of $3.99 is about right. Let's get real; there is no issue with scale nor printing nor shipping. The cost to deliver is only a few pennies more than a song track. Giving the author $1.20 would be way above the average contract, but 66% of that would be awesome as well.

Obviously, Apple was trying to avoid the mighty fist of the Justice Department by being evil, since apparently, them being the only one raising wages and worker conditions in China was pissing off everybody quietly getting their microwaves built for $.99.
post #39 of 252
Wow- some of the posts on here are really rich. I remember how people here went ballistic when the music idustry tried to get Apple to raise the $99cent per song pricing for years. The music industry and artists were claiming loss of revenue.
Same thing here except Apple and the publishing houses delibertately forced Amazon to raise their pricing whining about how they were losing money.
Funny how the shoe on the other foot never seems to fit around here.
post #40 of 252
Quote:
Originally Posted by iSheldon View Post

Apple and the book publishers colluded to raise the price of eBooks and force Amazon's and the consumer's hands. Your books are probably not the from the publishers originally alligned in the agreement.
Steve Jobs was trying to dissolve Amazon of its market share of eBooks by launching Apple's own bookstore and by forcing Amazon to raise prices.
The US is right in this case. (duck)
Did Amazon hire lobbyists for this?

I checked and the two books are not published by the ones listed in the suit. Had I found the price the same, the higher one, I would have not made the purchase and bought used paperbacks. I think maybe this is more relevant to the NYT bestseller list books, that are hot off the presses and being heavily marketed. I see that as a small subset of the published material avaliable. I rarely buy what they are trying to spoon feed to me. I guess this whole issue is more relevant to the sheep of the world.
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