April 16, 2012

DOJ still missing mark, but manages to hit B&N hard


The aftermath of last week’s capitulation by three of the five major publishers has had at least one solid effect: Barnes & Noble took a 17% hit on its stock.

The Department of Justice always gets its man.

And this clearly demonstrates that justice has been served. Well, that is if the purpose of the lawsuit was to strengthen Amazon’s monopoly and weaken its chief competitors. Jeffrey Trachtenberg has an extremely enlightening piece in the Wall Street Journal about this casualty of war:

Barnes & Noble Inc. bore the brunt of Wednesday’s antitrust settlement between the U.S. government and three major book publishers, losing 6.4% of its market value on Thursday alone and tumbling 17% this month

Those market worries reflected the broad sentiment in the publishing world that Amazon.com Inc. is likely to emerge a far stronger competitor in the fast-growing e-book business now that it once again will be able to discount digital books by such best-selling authors as Mary Higgins Clark and Christopher Moore.

Investors would be foolish to do anything else. When the federal government has become a personal attack dog on the side of a monopoly, well, you sure don’t invest in the rival company.

While any questions of corporate collusion should be investigated in all cases that merit a second look, the immediate aftermath of the DOJ’s action, namely Barnes & Noble suffering a stock hit, should demonstrate clearly how misguided (to put it lightly) the DOJ’s actions have been.

Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.