ABOUT THIS BOOK
One of the most-followed antitrust cases of recent times—United States v. Apple—reveals an often-missed truth: what Americans most fear is competition itself.
In 2012 the Department of Justice accused Apple and five book publishers of conspiring to fix ebook prices. The evidence overwhelmingly showed an unadorned price-fixing conspiracy that cost consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet before, during, and after the trial millions of Americans sided with the defendants. Pundits on the left and right condemned the government for its decision to sue, decrying Amazon’s market share, railing against a new high-tech economy, and rallying to defend beloved authors and publishers. For many, Amazon was the one that should have been put on trial. But why? One fact went unrecognized and unreckoned with: in practice, Americans have long been ambivalent about competition.
Chris Sagers, a renowned antitrust expert, meticulously pulls apart the misunderstandings and exaggerations that industries as diverse as mom-and-pop grocers and producers of cast-iron sewer pipes have cited to justify colluding to forestall competition. In each of these cases, antitrust law, a time-honored vehicle to promote competition, is put on the defensive. Herein lies the real insight of United States v. Apple. If we desire competition as a policy, we must make peace with its sometimes rough consequences. As bruising as markets in their ordinary operation often seem, letting market forces play out has almost always benefited the consumer. United States v. Apple shows why supporting cases that protect price competition, even when doing so hurts some of us, is crucial if antitrust law is to protect and maintain markets.
There is, I think, great wisdom in Sagers’s decision to look at antitrust history and policy from the perspective of a particular antitrust case that has generated a lot of public discussion…Pulls some interesting and important threads from antitrust history…Not only brilliantly conceived but also well timed, coming at a moment of great uncertainty about the goals of antitrust law.
-- Don Allen Resnikoff Washington Lawyer
This authoritative work contains a wealth of information.
-- Library Journal (starred review)
Persuasively argued… Through an array of concisely rendered, instructive examples from law and history, Sagers explores the public backlash to the Apple case as a ‘microcosm’ of the broader political and societal dilemmas that have effectively hamstrung modern antitrust enforcement.
-- Publishers Weekly
In this enjoyable, timely, and insightful book, Chris Sagers uses the colorful price-fixing case of United States v. Apple to explore the complexities and ironies of antitrust law. By bringing to the surface the cultural implications of antitrust and popular attitudes toward it, Sagers adds a much-needed dimension to the public and academic debate.
-- Eric A. Posner, coauthor of Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society
This book couldn’t be timelier. Amid growing calls from legislators and industry leaders to break up the big tech firms and to fire up the nation’s long dormant antitrust engines, Sagers’s richly detailed exploration of the Apple ebooks case, a rather ordinary case on the facts, offers an extraordinary lens on the very nature of competition, and the importance of sound, vigilant antitrust enforcement.
-- Andrew Richard Albanese, author of The Battle of $9.99: How Apple, Amazon and the Big Six Publishers Changed the E-Book Business Overnight
Chris Sagers has written an instructive and thought-provoking meditation on much more than an important antitrust case about ebooks. Page after page rewards the reader with new insights and important lessons.
-- Jonathan B. Baker, author of The Antitrust Paradigm: Restoring a Competitive Economy
United States v. Apple was not a close call: Apple and five publishers conspired to rig the prices of ebooks, taking money from readers. But many observers seemed to think that Apple, the villain of the story, was somehow the hero—and Amazon, the biggest victim, was secretly the villain. In this masterful book, Chris Sagers convincingly refutes this antitrust revisionism. United States v. Apple is an essential guide to one of the digital economy’s most important cases.
-- James Grimmelmann, author of Internet Law: Cases and Problems
At a time when national attention has turned to antitrust law to cure the perceived excesses of the largest and most successful technology firms, Sagers reminds us that there is no gain without pain when it comes to industrial revolutions. A society that does not address this pain through social policies will quickly lose popular support for antitrust laws and competition.
-- Andrew I. Gavil, coauthor of The Microsoft Antitrust Cases: Competition Policy for the Twenty-first Century
Sagers takes his readers on a fascinating journey through the history of the book industry… This essay cannot do justice to the in-depth, complex, and captivating narrative strands that Sagers weaves together to take us [to the Apple case]. Indeed, by the time the readers get to the conspiracy itself, Sagers’s rich analysis makes it look like an almost unavoidable result of the longstanding tensions in the relevant industries and in the law.
-- Guy A. Rub, Professor of Law, The Ohio State University
Sagers is a wonderful storyteller. His narrative is both rich in relevant factual information and entertaining stories. The reader will come away from this book with a much deeper understanding of the book industry, the role of antitrust in American society, and the relationship between the two.
-- Abraham L. Wickelgren, Professor of Law, University of Texas
It just blew me away… This is one of the best academic books I’ve read in a long time.
-- Brian L. Frye, Professor of Law, University of Kentucky, and host of the podcast Ipse Dixit
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction: A Case Bigger Than It Seemed
PART I. POLICY AS PROLOGUE
1. The Great Generalization
2. In the First Ships: Competition as a Concept and Its Special Role in American History
3. And Yet, Uncertainty: The Long Shadows of the American Methodenstreit
4. Uncertainty of Another Kind: Coping with Capitalism through Association and Self-Help
5. Tensions of the Latter Day and Some Unexpected Skepticism
6. Competition as a Living Policy, circa 2019
PART II. THE EBOOKS CASE
7. The Old Business of Books
8. Bookselling and the Birth of Amazon
9. Publishers, Booksellers, and the Oldest Problem in the World
10. Price-Fixing in Books
11. Content and the Digital Transition in Historical Context
12. The Promise and Threat of Electronic Books&
13. How Electronic Books Came to Be, and What It Would Mean for the Apple Case
14. Google Books
15. The Kindle
16. The eBooks Conspiracy
PART III. COMPETITION AND ITS MANY REGRETS
17. The Long Agony of Antitrust
18. So Are Books, After All, Special? Is Anything?
19. The Virtues of Vertical and Entry for Its Own Sake&
21. The Threat to Writers and the Threat to Cultural Values
22. The Creeping Profusion of Externalities
Conclusion: Real Ironies