• <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “America the Beautiful”
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington, Tongue-in-Cheek, Writes James McHenry About His Wife or Mistress—But Funding the Continental Army is the Real Topic
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Young’s Map of the United States
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> President Lincoln & His Most Profitable Client, the Illinois Central Railroad
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Thanks Former Pro-Slavery and Newly Republican Congressman for a Fiery Anti-Slavery Speech at a Philadelphia Campaign Rally
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> “A Visit From St. Nicholas” - great association copy inscribed by Clement C. Moore
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Einstein Agrees to Allow “a Short Book on the Hydrogen Bomb” to Use His Statement Made on Eleanor Roosevelt’s TV Show
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The Building Blocks of Albert Einstein’s Creative Mind
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> A Unique Manuscript Map of Block Island Sound Including Fisher’s and Gardiner’s Islands, the Hamptons, and Montauk Point
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> J.R.R. Tolkien Writes his Proofreader with a Lengthy Discussion of the Lord of the Rings, Including Criticism of Radio Broadcasts of his Work
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Six Benjamin Franklin Signed Receipts – Including his Earliest Obtainable Autograph — Acknowledging a Donation to the Famous Library Company He Founded, and Five Payments for His Pennsylvania Gazette
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Sherman Dishes on Lincoln & Thomas, Meade, Sheridan, Halleck & Grant
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Ernest Hemingway, Autograph Letter Signed "Love / Mr. Papa," to Marlene Dietrich, Cuba, 1952. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Alexis de Tocqueville, Autograph Letter Signed, on the publication of <i> Democracy in America </i>, 1837. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Thomas Hart Benton, Autograph Manuscript, draft of <i>The Mechanics of Form Organization in Painting</i>, with sketches, 1926. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Elliot Erwitt, photograph of Kennedy & Eisenhower, signed by both,<br>c. 1960. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> John Adams, Partly-printed Document Signed, as President, countersigned by Secretary of State Timothy Pickering, 1798. $4,000 to $6,000. 
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Graphite drawing of Albert Einstein, signed by him & the artist, S.N. Swamy, 1950. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Autograph Musical Quotation Signed, London, 1888. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Partly-printed vellum Document Signed, as President, countersigned by Secretary of State James Madison, 1809. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Agatha Christie, Autograph Manuscript notebook with early drafts for numerous novels, Baghdad, circa 1948. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Claude Monet, Autograph Letter Signed to Desmond Fitzgerald, in French, 1889. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Photograph of Fidel Castro, Signed & Inscribed, in Spanish, 1955. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 4:</b> Frederick Stuart Church, archive of 17 illustrated Autograph Letters Signed to Evander Schley, 1905-11. $5,000 to $7,500.
  • <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Book of hours, manuscript on vellum. Around 1520. Est: € 15,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>H. Schedel, <i>Liber chronicarum</i>. 1493. Est: € 60,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Biblia germanica. 1474.<br>Est: € 140,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>A. Ortelius, <i>Theatrum orbis terrarum</i>. 1574. Est: € 26,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>L. de Varthema, <i>Die ritterlich und lobwirdig Rays</i>. 1515. Est: € 15,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>J. H. van Linschoten, His <i>Discours of Voyages</i>. 1598. Est: € 70,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>J. G. Stedman, <i>Narrative of Surinam</i>. 1806. Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>A. von Menzel, <i>Armeewerk Friedrichs d. Gr.</i> 1855. Est: € 50,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>G. Heym, <i>Umbra Vitae</i>. 1924. Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Kunst Hamburg, Rare Books Auction on May 22</b>
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Master binding by G. Levitzky. 1914. Est: € 2,500
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>R. Char, <i>A la santé du serpent</i>. 1954. Est: € 8,000
    <b>Ketterer Rare Books, May 22:</b><br>Nam June Paik, Fluxus Testament. 1975. Est: € 18,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2012 Issue

Barnes & Noble Weighs in on E-Book Price Fixing Claims

B&ngraff

Graph which B&N says shows that agency prices have not increased cost of e-books.

Barnes & Noble has joined many in the publishing industry in the battle against Amazon over electronic book pricing. This battle bears many similarities to that of a generation ago which pitted Wal-Mart against Main Street. However, there are differences as well, and the outcome is not quite so certain this time.

Amazon reprises the role of Wal-Mart a generation ago. Amazon wants to sell e-books for less. It is a business plan as simple as that of Wal-Mart. Sell more merchandise than anyone else by charging less. Crush the competition by selling it so cheaply that no one else can match your price. Consumers may treat you with disdain for being so crass, for providing so little service, but they still flock to your store. Ultimately, we follow the cheapest price. It's like our feelings toward government. We like good schools, roads and bridges, parks, museums, all kinds if public services, but we prefer tax cuts.

Now, as previously noted, there are differences from the Wal-Mart vs. Main Street battle. When Amazon entered the e-book business, it was not trampling on someone else's turf. There was no Main Street. No one was there. Amazon wanted to make sure it stayed that way. Even without competition, they sold e-books cheaply, at low margins, at times even at a loss. The plan was to so dominate the e-book business that no one else would ever get a foothold. It worked like a charm. Amazon grabbed a 90% market share, selling most books for the low price of $9.99.

You might think this would make the publishers happy. Unlike Wal-Mart, which used its large orders to bludgeon suppliers into giving them lower wholesale prices, Amazon paid up, absorbing the costs of selling cheaply itself. The publishers were still not happy. They believed cheap e-books were hurting their sales of more expensive printed editions. They also feared cheap prices would lead consumers to believe that $9.99 was the fair price for a book, making it difficult for them to ever again sell books at higher prices. They wanted Amazon to charge more.

Into this mix came Apple, the computer/mobile phone giant, today the most valuable company in the world. Apple wanted to sell e-books too, but Apple, unlike Amazon, doesn't believe in using low margins to gain market share. Apple wants to be paid well for everything it sells. However, Apple did not want to be in a position where it was selling merchandise at a higher price than someone else. Most of what Apple sells is its proprietary products, so this is not a problem. E-books are not, and Apple did not want consumers to think they were overcharging. Since Apple still wanted to make healthy margins, that left only one solution to this dilemma. Get Amazon to raise their prices. Since the publishers, for their own reasons, also wanted Amazon to raise prices, Apple and the publishers now found themselves having a common interest.

According to a complaint filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, five publishers met with executives from Apple, and they hammered out a deal. Rather than use standard wholesale pricing for their e-books, they would switch to what is known as the “agency” model. The publishers would set the retail price, and the retailers, be it Apple or Amazon, would have to charge this amount. In return, they got a fixed commission (30%). This way, Apple could sell at as low a price as anyone else. They would not look bad. Of course, Amazon, being forced to sell at the same price, could not secure market share by being cheaper. It was like manufacturers requiring Wal-Mart to sell at the same price as Main Street. There goes the competitive advantage. Since the publishers' prices were generally $12.99 or $14.99, not Amazon's favored price of $9.99, it also meant that the price of e-books would increase for the 90% of customers who were buying from Amazon.

The Department of Justice cried “foul.” It determined this was a case of conspiracy and price fixing and took Apple and the five publishers involved to court. Three of the publishers quickly agreed to settle, discontinuing their agreements with Apple and the setting of retail prices. Those publishers were Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. Two other publishers, Penguin and MacMillan, along with Apple, did not agree to settle. The court then opened the floor to others who wanted to comment on the case, which leads us to Barnes & Noble.

Barnes & Noble recently filed a brief attacking the government's action. Here is where we see shades of Wal-Mart vs. Main Street, as many of B&N's arguments are very similar to those of Main Street. The bricks and mortar retailer says the arrangement has increased competition. It cites a declining share of the e-book market for Amazon, from 90% to 60%, and notes that it now has been able to successfully enter the market as a competitor. Prior to this, Amazon's willingness to sell books even below cost made it virtually impossible for them to enter the business. B&N then goes on to tout some of the claimed advantages to the public, booksellers, and authors arising from their ability to compete, such as providing a showroom for new books. This is where people can learn about newly released titles. The argument very much resembles Main Street's claims that the small, local store provided explanations and service for products that would disappear if Wal-Mart were allowed to come to town and undercut them on price.

Barnes & Noble argues that the agreement has given consumers more choices as to where to buy e-books, undoubtedly true. “Barnes & Noble, Apple, independent booksellers, and others have emerged to provide consumers more choice in where and how they shop for e-books,” B&N accurately claims. They then say, “Under agency, publishers have engaged in vigorous competition on price, which, contrary to the superficial pricing analysis in the complaints before the Court, has resulted in lower ebook prices.” The accuracy of this claim is less obvious. They display a graph showing e-book prices either slipping or being flat for several years without citing the source of this information. Even if true, this would not mean that agency pricing has helped, or not driven prices higher than they would have been, as other factors could be involved as well.

Of course, some people will say rather than a Wal-Mart/Main Street comparison, Barnes & Noble should look in the mirror. A couple of decades ago, small book shop owners were making a similar contrast between giant, chain book retailer Barnes & Noble vs. small, locally owned book shops. B&N was far less concerned about concentration of book sales into the hands of one large retailer at that time. But, leaving that aside, are we better off defending Amazon's ability to sell books as cheaply as it wants, even if it drives out competitors who may offer more services? If we believe B&N's claim, the choice is obvious: “The end loser of this unnecessary and burdensome regulatory approach will be the American public, who will experience higher overall average e-book and hardback prices and less choice, both in how to obtain books and in what books are available.”

I believe everything B&N says except the one about higher prices. I find it very hard to believe that forcing Amazon to charge higher prices lowers the overall price of e-books. In the Wal-Mart case, this might have been somewhat believable, though that is not what happened. One could say that once Main Street shuttered its doors, Wal-Mart would have been free to raise prices and it would have been very difficult to reopen those shops, particularly since Wal-Mart could have reinstated temporary price cuts at any time to drive them back under. However, competition can be set up against an online seller such as Amazon, even if it holds 90% of the market, in a heartbeat if it raises prices. Setting up a competing website is an easy, relatively inexpensive proposition.

Ultimately, the decision in this case will not be based on whether a dominant, bargain basement Amazon, or a wider array of merchants who offer different features but who all charge more is better for consumers. It will be based on whether the parties in this case illegally conspired to place a restraint on trade. It is left for us to ponder the more difficult question of which is best for society.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b>  Lewis Morris Rutherfurd, The Moon, From a Negative taken at the Observatory of Mr. L. M. Rutherfurd...May 19, 1874. Est: $5,000-8,000 (Lot 3)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Alvin Langdon Coburn. London. With 20 photogravures by Coburn and text by Hilaire Belloc, London and New York: 1909. First edition. Est: $4,000-6,000 (Lot 32)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Lee Friedlander, Newark, New Jersey, 1962 and Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1972.<br>Est: $7,000-9,000 (Lot 50)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> The  papers of Brevet Major General John Gross Barnard (1815-1882), Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac. Est: $75,000-100,000 (Lot 160)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> James Joyce, Dubliners, London: Grant Richards, 1914. First edition. Est: $5,000-8,000 (Lot 362)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> George Sand, Group of five volumes inscribed to Henry Harrisse. Est: $4,000-6,000 (Lot 405)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Thomas More, Sir, Saint [Utopia]: De optimo reip. statu deque nova insula utopia libellus vere aureus… Basel: Froben, March 1518. First Basel edition. Est: $15,000-25,000 (Lot 308)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Johannes Brahms, Autograph letter in German signed "Joh. Brahms.” Est: $4,000-6,000 (Lot 285)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Kelmscott Press, [Guilelmus, of Tyre, Archbishop]. The History of Godefrey of Boloyne. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1893. Est: $2,000-3,000 (Lot 270)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Gilles Robert de Vaugondy, Gilles Didier, Atlas universel...Paris: the author and Boudet, 1757[-58]. Est: $10,000 - $15,000  (Lot 222)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> John Keats, Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of Saint Agnes and Other Poems. London: Taylor and Hessey, 1820. First edition. Est: $5,000-7,000 (Lot 399)
    <b>Doyle, Apr. 26:</b> Specimen book of Schumacher & Ettlinge, between 1870-1895. Original roan-backed boards.. Est: $2,000-3,000 (Lot 195)
  • <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Ackermann, Rudolph—Uwins, Thomas. A collection of 240 drawings for Rudolph Ackermann's <i>Repository of Arts</i> magazine, 1809-1828. £20,000 – 30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Willem Janszoon, and Joan. <i>Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, Sive Atlas Novus in Quo Tabulae et Descriptiones Omnium Regionum.</i> 1640-1654. £100,000 – 150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Mercator, Gerard and Jodocus Hondius. <i>L’Atlas ou Méditations Cosmographiques de la Fabrique du Monde et Figure Diceluy.</i> 1613. £60,000 – 80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Speed, John. <i>The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain, Presenting an Exact Geography of the Kingdom of England, Scotland, Ireland and the Isles Adjoyning...</i> £100,000 – 150,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Wit, Frederick De. [General Atlas], With The Engraved Title For Atlas Maior. Amsterdam, [C.1688-1696]. £50,000 – 70,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Kuntz, Joh. Rudolph. <i>[Abbildungen Königlich Württembergischer Gestütts-Pferde von Orientalischen Racen.</I> Stuttgart: Ebner 1823–1824]. £30,000 – 40,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Lawrence, T.E. Ivory Silk Thawb, Or Under-Robe, Presented by Lawrence of Arabia to a family friend. £10,000 – 15,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Joan. <i>Archipelagus Orientalis Sive Asiaticus</i>. Amsterdam: Joan Blaeu, [1659]. £200,000 – 250,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Blaeu, Joan. <i>Asiae Descriptio Novissima</i>. Amsterdam: Joan Blaeu, [1659]. £60,000 – 80,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London: Travel, Atlases, Maps & Natural History. 9 May 2017. Viewing 5 – 8 May.</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Japanese bird paintings—(Rinchô Zu). A Pair Of Painted Scrolls of Birds. [Japan, Late 18th Or Early 19th Century]. £25,000 – 35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Huang, Qianren. Da Qing Wannian Yitong Tianxia Quantu [Complete Map of the Whole Unified Country of the Great Qing]. [1803]. £80,000 – 120,000
    <b>Sotheby’s London, 9 May:</b> Sôkaku or Ryôsei Jôkei. Da Ming Sheng Tu, [Map of (China Under) The Great Ming Dynasty]. (1691 Or 1711). £80,000 – 120,000
  • <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> BROWNING, ELIZABETH BARRETT. Autograph Manuscript Initialed ("E.B.B."), being the working notebook for the poems contained in <i>The Seraphim and Other Poems</i>. $400,000 to 600,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> WILDE, OSCAR. Two leaves, pp 31-34, from the first appearance of <i>The Picture of Dorian Gray in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine for July, 1890</i>, with Wilde's autograph revisions. $40,000 to 60,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories and Tragedies; Published according to the true Originall Copies. Second Impression. [THE SECOND FOLIO.]</i> $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> KENNEDY, JOHN FITZGERALD. Photograph Signed ("John F. Kennedy") and Inscribed, 8 x 10 inch gelatin silver print, of Senator Kennedy and Miss Barelli, at the swearing of the secretarial oath for Miss Barelli. $1,200 to 1,800
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> COOPER, JAMES FENIMORE. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter XXVII of <i>Afloat and Ashore</i>. $15,000 to 20,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> IRVING, WASHINGTON. Autograph Manuscript, being Chapter 20 from Volume IV of <i>The Life of George Washington</i>. $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> VERNE, JULES. Autograph Manuscript Signed ("Jules Verne"), being the complete short story "<i>Une fantaisie de docteur Ox</i>". $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> ALCHEMY. <i>[The Crowning of Nature, or Coronatio Naturae.]</i> Original alchemical manuscript on paper, ruled in red, with watermark of the arms of Schieland. $100,000 to 150,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> DE JODE, CORNELUS. 1568 - 1600. <i>Quivirae Regnu, Cum Alija Versus Borea</i>. [Antwerp: Arnoldum Coninx, 1593]. $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams, March 9. Fine Books and Manuscripts, Including the Kennedy Years</b>
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> HOOKER, JOSEPH DALTON. <i>The Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya; Being an Account, Botanical and Geographical, of the Rhododendrons Recently Discovered in the Mountains of Eastern Himalaya</i>… $7,000 to 10,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> CATLIN, GEORGE. <i>North American Indian Portfolio. Hunting scenes and amusements of the Rocky Mountains and prairies of America. From drawings and notes of the author, made during eight years' travel.</i> $20,000 to 30,000
    <b>Bonhams Mar. 9:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. HESLER, ALEXANDER. Platinum print, 8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in, of a beardless Lincoln, 1860.<br>$2,000 to 3,000
  • <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> <i>The First American Magna Carta. English Liberties.</i> Boston, 1721.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Babbage presentation to Peel, the man who killed the Difference Engine 1832
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> The Stamp Act. 1765
    <b>Now in press: 19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Central Park Photographs by Prevost 1862
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Salem Witch Trials. Wonders of the Invisible World 1693
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> Mammoth print of Millie-Christine, "The Carolina Twins" c. 1868

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