Suggested Retail Price

Are Tostitos really so different from books?

Two things rocked the publishing world in the last week–the Pulitzer fiction snub and the justice department’s lawsuit against Apple and five major New York houses. I haven’t read any of the finalist novels, so I can’t comment on the Pulitzer board’s decision not to award any of them with the prize, but even though I don’t know much about e-book price fixing either, the issue invites some consideration.

So Apple and five publishers tried to collectively raise prices, waging war against e-book giant Amazon’s $9.99 e-books. It’s hard to know how one feels about this. As a consumer, of course I should be outraged that the most valuable company in the world is scheming to make me pay more than I should to read a book. As a loyal Apple device user, I can’t quite work up the anger. How much do e-books costs to produce? How much of a margin should the publishers deserve to make? News Corp, the parent of defendant Harper Collins, reported an operating income of $864 million last year in their publishing division. I don’t see a lot of room for whining in that number, but who knows how much of that is attributable to price fixing. Maybe the underhanded tactics were the only thing keeping them in the black. Doubtful, but maybe. Every company in the lawsuit is a big player, no question, but they were trying to gang up in order to take on the king. Amazon rules the e-book market, and it’s hard to feel too bad when the king gets challenged. He’s the king. He can handle himself.

At the end of the day, I don’t see why it can’t be like chips. Just put the suggested retail price on the bag, or book as it may be, and sell it for whatever you need to make in order to turn a profit. I never hear Tostitos complaining about how Wal-mart is ruining the chip business, so I assume things are going well in the salty snack food market. Maybe the big publishing houses should do a little benchmarking.