The Wall Street Journal has a great article on U.S. antitrust law and how Apple & Co. really, really violated it very badly with their agency-pricing agreement. If you can't read it, Passive Voice has an excerpt. It's really worth reading, because one of the basic premises of U.S. antitrust law is that it's geared toward protecting consumers, not businesses--"competition, not competitors" in the words of the article. If you don't understand that basic concept, nothing that antitrust regulators do will make any sense.
And the article notes that books are not really all that special:
Even if publishers did seek an exemption [from antitrust law], it isn't clear that lawmakers would agree that consumers should pay more for e-books in order to save publishers or physical bookstores. The list of companies that have vanished at least in part because of digital distribution grows longer each year: Tower Records, Borders, Circuit City, local travel agents. How would Congress decide which ones should be protected from online competition?
"Why this guy and not that guy?" asks Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America, a nonprofit advocacy group. "You'd end up saving everybody."
I would add only that, if you are going to commit a red-flag, must-prosecute sort of offense, have the sense to do so quietly--law enforcement does read the paper.
And this (via PV) is a great history of book publishing and book retail. It manages to be both very informative and very, very, VERY funny. Rusch has a less-funny but equally informative history of what she calls the book trade--how book publishing and book retail affect each other.
I think the larger lesson from this is that the publishing industry has always changed--it's changing very rapidly right now, but change has been constant. What we call traditional publishing has only been the tradition for the past few decades, and in the form it is in now, really only the past 10-15 years. That's why I could peg the publication date of Jodi Picoult's first novel so accurately: She was obviously published when publishing looked more or less the same as it does today but was somewhat easier to enter; ergo, she was published 20 years ago.