Pearson

Andrew Hill

Anglo American’s Cynthia Carroll would quite justifiably like to be assessed for her performance as a chief executive, not as a female chief executive. The same goes for two other prominent chief executives of UK companies who have announced their departure this month: Marjorie Scardino at Pearson (which owns the FT) and Kate Swann at WH Smith.

But the continued scarcity of female CEOs worldwide, the fact that two of this trio will be replaced by men (Ms Carroll’s successor has yet to be named), and the coincidence with a heated debate about gender quotas in European Union boardrooms make this a legitimate theme.

Specifically, it draws attention to the only element of the gender quota debate that pro-quota and anti-quota camps agree on (apart from the ultimate objective of achieving greater balance): that it is more important to fill the pipeline of female executives than it is to stock the board with female non-executives. Read more

John Gapper

Visitors try out various ebook readers at a book fair in Frankfurt. Image by Getty

Visitors try out various ebook readers at a book fair in Frankfurt. Image by Getty

So the US Department of Justice has struck, pushing three of the major book publishers into a settlement that will allow Amazon to resume discounting of electronic books, with three others left outside the settlement.

I’ve argued before against the anti-trust actions in the US and Europe to limit “agency pricing” by  publishers and hand power back to Amazon, so I won’t rehearse that here. Instead, I’ll consider briefly what the effect of the settlement is likely to be.

In short, although it is clearly good news for Amazon and bad news for the big publishers, the outcome may not be as clear-cut as the headlines suggest. Read more

John Gapper

I fear that the US Department of Justice is heading firmly into the territory of unintended consequences by threatening to sue Apple and five of the biggest US book publishers for colluding to raise the price of electronic books.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Department of Justice is unconvinced by the arguments of book publishers, including Penguin, which is owned along with the Financial Times by Pearson. It is threatening to take action over their “agency” pricing model for ebooks.

I should note that I have an interest in all this since, as well as being a Pearson employee, I wrote an ebook last year which was published by Penguin and sold, among other places, on Amazon’s Kindle store.

I wrote about this issue in a column in December and concluded that eliminating agency pricing, under which publishers rather than ebook distributors, set the prices for their books, would reinforce Amazon’s dominance:

“If some publishers want to set ebook prices above the level Amazon prefers, that is fine providing they do not collude to fix prices and there are alternatives. There is little danger on the latter front – anyone can now become a publisher and new ones are springing up all the time. Amazon has itself become a publisher and displays its titles generously in the Kindle store.

“Minimum prices deals helped to erode Amazon’s initial dominance in ereaders by encouraging competition from B&N and others. Even so, the Kindle still accounts for 60 per cent of ebook sales. It is not the job of antitrust officials to hand Amazon back its monopoly.”

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