In a case that’s already featured a comic strip and a full-length Emily Dickinson poem, a lawyer is hoping another line of poetry will persuade a judge to put the brakes on a settlement intended to shake up the ebook market.
“Your Honor, I appreciate that there is ‘No Frigate like a Book,’ but to quote another famous poet, John Masefield, ‘All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,’” wrote attorney Bob Kohn in a missive to stop the settlement.
Kohn’s literary flourish is in response to U.S. District Judge Denise Cote’s inclusion of Dickinson’s poem in a decision last week that effectively ends some publishers’ power to set the price of ebooks.
Meanwhile, Cote, who is herself an ebook buyer, issued an order saying that she waives her right to collect under a refund agreement that will pay consumers 25 cents to $1.32 to compensate them for price fixing.
As for Kohn, who submitted a five-page comic strip to the judge this month, his latest appeal appears hopeless because today is when three publishers must tear up their contracts with Apple. The publishers must terminate those and other contracts in exchange for the Justice Department shelving an antitrust case against them. The development has already resulted in new book discounts by Amazon and other retailers.
Kohn, a music executive who has been one of the settlement’s most vehement critics, is arguing (correctly) that Cote’s refusal to stay the deal will result in the new pricing system becoming a fait accompli by the time the issue reaches an appeals court.
Apple and two other publishers are continuing to fight the price-fixing charges in court.
Here are the two poems followed by Kohn’s latest letter to the judge:
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.
By John Masefield, English Poet Laureate (1878-1967).
There is no Frigate like a Book
(Image by Vikulin via Shutterstock)