If you're reaction to the Department of Justice is a bit of “what?” and “huh?” here's plenty of explanation and education.
First, you can read the documents filed by the Department of Justice (pdf) in New York's Southern District court. The documents explain the case, the processes of print and ebook publishing, and allegations that caused the suit to be filed. Point of note: references to “horizontal conspiracy” create mental images that are unintentionally silly.
(I went and looked for a few links to explain the basics of antitrust, and I discovered a strange phenomenon. Many of the pages that explain the basics also feature a dude in a suit with a douchebag smile and an oddly awkward pose. So here, unintended hilarity with some anti-trust basics.)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Jane at Dear Author also explains much of the case and the possible consequences.
Jane also has the settlement reached with HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette, which requires that agency pricing will be eliminated for two years, pending approval by the court.
Macmillan, via this statement from John Sargent, vows to fight the suit, saying “Other publishers have chosen to settle. That is their decision to make. We have decided to fight this in court.”
Once settlement approval is all set and done, they have seven days to comply.
Amazon has offered a very succinct statement to Laura Hazard Owens in response:
“This is a big win for Kindle owners, and we look forward to being allowed to lower prices on more Kindle books.” — Amazon statement on Hachette, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins’ settlement with the Department of Justice
(Coincidence that the response is tweet-able? I think not.)
The tweet stream on my laptop is divided between Romantic Times tweets and publisher news about the DoJ, which is fascinating in a incongruous kind of way. The most interesting responses for me are those that cast Amazon as evil, Apple is evil, the publishers are evil. There's no good guy/bad guy scenario.
What does this mean for readers? More changes! Soon prices on some ebook romances will go down from some publishers, and retailers like Amazon but also AllRomance, Fictionwise, and BooksonBoard will be able to set prices, rebates, and promotions on books from those publishers that have settled. From my perspective, it seemed so limited a strategy to restrict the abilities of an independent online digital book seller who wants to feature and discount a book, all to send a frozen fish of outrage to Amazon.com for that terrible, horrible, no good very bad digital $9.99 bestseller. In a nutshell, the price of ebooks will be changing again, and different groups will be creating the change. We shall see what happens next.