Don't get me wrong... Agency has downsides. Lots of them. It's tremendously annoying that there are no sales on Agency books. Kobo (my preferred store) gives out lots of discount codes, but they're of limited use because they don't apply to Agency books. And those publishers that choose to price their ebooks above the paperback price are extremely frustrating (although a few of them seem to be getting a clue. Tor, for example, prices Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books at a decent discount from paperback. DRM free too.)
But without Agency, it's entirely possible we'd be living in a Kindle-only world.
Amazon was using ebooks as loss-leaders to sell Kindles. $9.99 for the latest bestseller. The publishers hated it because it cannibalized their hardcover sales. But the danger went a lot further then that.
One of the boards I read (I think it might be mobileread.com) introduced me to the concept of a monopsony
. Call it the flip side to a monopoly. There existed a very real possibility that Amazon would become the only practical retailer for ebooks, thanks to their willingness to take a loss to build market share (and the deep pockets to enable taking that loss.)
I much prefer the current, varied ecosystem in ebook retailing. I like owning a Kobo Touch, which lets me read ebooks from anybody selling epubs (as long as they don't use customized DRM, but hey, it's a pain getting Barnes & Noble to sell to a Canadian anyways, so who cares.) Amazon wouldn't work nearly as well for me. Canada is an afterthought market for Amazon.
The trial is proving interesting. CNN/Fortune has really good coverage on their Apple blog