📑 Free Markets

Bookmarked Cory Doctorow: Free Markets (Locus Online)

When monopolists control the way to the market, all the other market participants have to form cartels to fight them. The reason the Big Six publishers col­luded with Apple to fix prices was that Amazon was destroying them. The reason the Big Six have turned into the Big Four is that the only way to survive the mobile duopoly and the ebook monopoly is to merge and merge and merge.

After all, when different companies collude on prices, that’s an antitrust violation. When different divisions of the same company collude, that’s just do­ing business. If you want to collude with a competitor without getting sued, you just need to buy them first.

Cory Doctorow reflects on his experience of running a campaign associated with the audiobook for Attack Surface and the challenges faced by a ‘free market’. He discusses the user experience associated with selling people an mp3 file compared with purchasing a book via an app like Audible or even integrated within Kindle.

Apple and Google are serious about keeping their 30% ferryman’s rake on everyone they row to the market. They use lawsuits to kick out noncompliant apps and DRM on their devices to keep apps out after they’ve been tossed (Google’s Android devices are better on this second front). Both companies make billions in economic rents on app purchases.
Can it really be a coincidence that both companies have also made it nearly impossible to download a file from the internet and get it to play on your phone without an app?
Unfree markets are the order of the day: not because governments intervene in them, but because they don’t. Predatory mergers have clustered publishing, payment processing, app delivery, distribution, and most other parts of the book world into industries dominated by five or fewer firms; some sectors (on­line bookselling, national book retail) are dominated by one firm. In many cases, the same firm appears in multiple places in the value chain, letting it flank the sectors it doesn’t control and squeeze them as a supplier on one side and as a customer on the other.

Doctorow also recorded a reading of the article too:

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