Apple, Editing and E-Book Economics

A jolt of quick news, from Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. (AAPL), the world’s biggest technology company, “played a central role” in conspiring with five publishers to fix the prices of electronic books, and will face a trial to set damages, a federal judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, ruling in a suit brought by the U.S. government and 33 state attorneys general, said Apple lost the case, in part, because of statements by its deceased founder, Steve Jobs, that government lawyers said showed Apple was targeting e-book leader Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN)

The ruling means that Apple will be ordered to stop its price-fixing conspiracy and may have to pay triple damages for overcharging customers. The Justice Department isn’t seeking damages. Apple said it will appeal.

“The plaintiffs have shown that the publisher defendants conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, and that Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy,” Cote, in Manhattan, said in her opinion today.

via Apple Faces Damages Trial Over E-Book Antitrust Violation – Bloomberg.

Although this ruling is great for people like us, the common reader and book-buyer (regardless of whatever snobbery you may feel toward e-books in general), it’s hard to ignore how bad it is for book publishers. Amazon has, for ages now, undermined the publisher’s expectations and led the march toward publishing industry destruction, a topic most literary publications outline as presumed these days, all this ruling may do is concrete-reinforce the downward spiraling slope.

What I’m personally afraid of when I read articles like this is the future of “editing” as an elite and necessary professional. Without the deeply keen, inquisitive eye of my editors, I’d be nowhere near the kind of writer or reader I am today. When I was powering through articles for FourStory, in fact, my articles were judged and their validity weighed by, sometimes, three different editors before they were finally put up onto the internet. And lord knows, those essays needed the overhaul.

Someone like me in particular, a person who experiences the world through a painted window of erratic neurochemical design, can sometimes burst with energy and efficiency while also moving so quickly that conjunctions, predicates, even whole arguments can be skipped, ignored or else drawn out needlessly under the presumption that more words mean more understanding. I need a fearless editor to ravenously assault me and my writing, every part of it. I’d so often be lost in a directionless miasma without one.

Aside from marketing, obviously, what else is a publisher good for than to play this role: push you and your writing to the critical limits? Thrust onto you your best and then expect you to raise to yourself in every sentence. Budgets for editing seem less important when marketing is what sells a book, thus editing is put on the backburner, becoming solely the responsibility of the writer who strives for intellectual and literary integrity, whatever that means, in the end.

Granted, I sometimes think that I’d rather just pay my favorite authors out-of-pocket directly, Kickstarter-style (as long as they use my trusting cash to hire an Maxwell Perkins-echelon editor).