So what happened? How did the apparently inevitable ebook revolution fail to come to pass?
To figure out the answers, we’ll have to dive in deep to a lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice in 2012 against Apple — newly entered into the ebook market with the advent of the iPad — and five of what was then the Big Six publishing houses. The Department of Justice accused Apple and the publishers of colluding to fix ebook prices against Amazon, and although the DOJ won its case in court, the pricing model that Apple and the publishers created together would continue to dominate the industry, creating unintended ripple effects.
The case of US v. Apple encapsulates the dysfunction of the last decade of publishing. It’s a story about what we’re willing to pay for books — and about an industry that is growing ever more consolidated, with fewer and fewer companies taking up more and more market share. What happened to the ebook in the 2010s is the story of the contraction of American publishing.