Surprise! The world isn't ending after all

You think this is about those silly non-Mayan predictions of apocalypse, but this is actually about some even sillier predictions of apocalypse, mainly the notion that the Department of Justice's antitrust settlement was part of an evil plot by Amazon to rule the world.

But it turns out that e-book prices aren't crashing after all

The real shock is that this admission is happening in the New York Times, which last April wrote:

The government’s decision to pursue major publishers on antitrust charges has put the Internet retailer Amazon in a powerful position: the nation’s largest bookseller may now get to decide how much an e-book will cost, and the book world is quaking over the potential consequences.

But who cares about that--that was last April! Its eight month later, plus it's Christmas Eve, when nobody except total nerds (like MEEEE!!!) reads the business section of the newspaper. So it's a perfect time to completely backtrack on that allegation, and imply that nobody ever really thought it was completely bogus!

From today's article:

The most extreme outcome went like this: Digital versions of big books selling for $9.99 or less would give Amazon complete domination over the e-book market. As sales zoomed upward, even greater numbers of consumers would abandon physical books. The major publishers and traditional bookstores were contemplating a future that would pass them by.

But doomsday has not arrived, at least not yet. As four of the publishers have entered into settlements with regulators and revised the way they sell e-books, prices have selectively fallen but not as broadly or drastically as anticipated.

Some of this article is hysterical--the Author's Guild is not available for comment, if you were wondering--but then it gets annoying again.

For one thing, the notion that e-books are somehow in decline pops up again:

Adult e-book sales through August were up 34 percent from 2011, an impressive rate of growth if you forget that sales have doubled every year for the last four years. 

I will remember that a 34% rate of growth is really not that impressive, not when you think about it. I mean, you've got to be forgetful as hell to think that a 34% increase is a pretty substantial increase--like, if your salary or the value of your home went up 34% in a year, that wouldn't impress you at all, unless you had Alzheimer's or something.

OK, fine, that bit was kind of hysterical, too.

But THEN they quote people who never expected the sky to fall--you know, the sorts of people they would never, ever have spoken to back in April. Those people. Non-traditional publishing people. People who know the first thing about e-books. 

Some say they never expected a price war at all. “The pricing war hasn’t happened because Amazon can’t afford it,” said Nate Hoffelder of the Digital Reader, a site devoted to e-book news and opinion. 

Now, what Hoffelder has to say is much less silly than what the New York Times was printing before, but what sticks in my craw is the wording: "Some say they never expected a price war at all."

Doesn't it sound like these people are coming up with painfully accurate predictions after the fact? "Some say they never expected it, but that's what they're saying now. Obviously they did not expect it, because if they were authoritative, we would have quoted them back in April!"

So, for the record: I EXPECTED THIS. I blogged about it here. I say this not to toot my own horn, but to point out that I think it's perfectly likely that Hoffelder looked at the same facts I looked at and came to the same conclusion waaay back in the spring. Because--and call me dogmatic--to my way of thinking that was the logical conclusion to draw, and I hope to God that I am not the only person on the planet who is capable of looking at facts and drawing logical conclusions.

Although that's not something the New York Times appeared capable of back in April.

But they do seem to be coming around these days, huh? First, they expressed skepticism of a publishing deal, and now, they're printing stuff like this:

Jordan Selburn, senior principal analyst for consumer platforms at IHS, said the migration from e-readers to tablets puts Amazon in “an interesting position” with e-book prices.

“Amazon does not make much off the hardware,” he said. “Its goal is to sell you content. When they sell you a Kindle Fire tablet, they are not just selling you books but movies, diapers, garden hose. It’s a portal into their entire store.”

But one day, Amazon must try to make a profit. . . .

Perhaps there will be loss leaders, but more likely each product will have to carry its own weight. In other words, this might be as cheap as e-books will ever be.

God, that's like--realistic or something! Wow!