I'd like to echo Kris Rausch-- we really can't tell what this antitrust suit will mean. The issues are so complex even attorneys and judges don't understand everything about these lawsuits. But here's her take on it, and she has a link to a site which explains more of it.
But already everyone in the bookworld is nervous, not that I blame us. I mean, the industry gets pneumonia whenever anyone sneezes. And Apple being involved complicates. (It's always hard to tell if Steve Jobs fans are actually just against anyone against Apple, which is, we hear, now the richest company in the history of the world... who knew? Anyway, Apple doesn't need our pity... this won't set them back one fraction of a percent of stock price.)
Anyway, I was remembering perhaps the most important legal case since Brown vs. Board of Ed-- the AT&T antitrust case. I remember everyone back then was muttering, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," about "Ma Bell's" longstanding monopoly. And yet, I look back on what telephoning was like before that and marvel.We put up with that? I remember when it was ILLEGAL to have more than one phone in your house. Yes, illegal. My granddad was afraid my grandmother would be upstairs and have heart trouble and not be able to get downstairs to call an ambulance, so he somehow got a second phone--- really, you couldn't even buy a phone back then... you could just rent one from ATT, and they let you have only one-- and he spliced a cable and hooked up a phone up in their bedroom.. and a few weeks later, the police came as the phone company had noticed this and filed a complaint against Grandpa.... somehow I doubt that company would have willingly let us all have throwaway cellphones.) So maybe this new lawsuit will hasten the demise of cheap paperbacks or lead to even more editors being laid off... or maybe it will lead to something amazing.
The Web, cellphones, even fax machines would never have happened without the forced breakup of the ATT monopoly. (The technology for most of that existed, of course... but was suppressed.) Our world was quite literally transformed by that lawsuit. And no one could have predicted it at the time. All that was clear was that progress abhors a monopoly.
I doubt anything so transformative will come out of this case. After all, the genie's out of the bottle-- we already have open access to our own sources of publication (which really was suppressed for decades by the gentleman's agreements among distributors, publishers, and booksellers). So all we know is it's unlikely to go backwards-- we're never going to go back to a model of publishers utterly controlling access to the marketplace. And if Amazon gets more pissy and starts strangling royalties, well, Amazon has gotten pretty powerful in 20 years, but it doesn't control the internet (yet :). There will now be other options. The sad thing about this lawsuit is all it really shows is how desperate the big publishers are to keep control, and yet how impotent they are, having to use one behemoth (Apple) in the war against another (Amazon), and not even getting it right, as usual, a day late and a dollar short. (Better to use that dollar to PAY WRITERS.)
Anyway, I do look back at the ATT breakup (which most of us thought was bad at the time) and realize how much came out of that, and it's cautionary, that's all. Who knows. But progress, once allowed, can't be stopped, and interestingly the ones progress empowers tend to be the ones without power earlier. (That is, writers.)