Buzz Bissinger wrote Friday Night Lights and introduced the world to the madness that is American football as played in Texas.
The book was a sensation.
Rather than turn his back on the people he met and the young men who were looking to a sport to launch them into a money-making career, the author kept in touch. He was particularly intrigued by one of the players who suffered an injury, which ended the dream.
Boobie Miles was so set on playing football that he lacked a Plan B. Mr. Bissinger wrote another piece about Mr. Miles after the goal was gone, and went with a new publishing strategy to get the story out to the public.
Using Byliner, the writer presented a work that was too short for a book but too long for a magazine article. He priced After Friday Night Lights at $2.99, and shared his royalties with Mr. Miles.
All went well until Apple and Starbucks put the e-book into a promotion, in which coupons could be turned in for a free copy.
Amazon's all-seeing computers discovered the promo, interpreted it as a price cut by a competitor, and promptly set their price to $0.00.
Except, of course, that Apple was paying Mr. Bissinger his royalty. Amazon was not. They declared the book free, so the author got nothing.
Byliner pulled the book from Amazon, which is too big to be bothered with fixing the glitch and not particularly interested in carrying an e-book that a competitor is giving away and therefore gaining market share.
Amazon is too big and it is constantly failing authors and publishers, but that's the problem. It's grown too massive, and the anti-monopoly issue won't come into play until it has driven its competition into the ground.
At which point, it will be too late for the consumer.
That's the problem that the big publishers have with Amazon, and the reason they're fighting back against the U.S. Justice Department's attempt to label them as the guilty party for setting prices and stifling competition.
The Feds may have forgotten that there are laws against predatory pricing as well, and if Amazon can unilaterally punish an author for allowing one of their works to be given away by someone other than Amazon, the future of book selling doesn't look bright.
Mr. Bissinger has a new book coming out soon, and he's parsing his words carefully. He doesn't dare anger Amazon, the world's largest book seller.
And that's something the Justice Department should be examining.