From Shelf Awareness:
“The central problem is still with us,” said Douglas Preston, author and founder of the Authors United movement, during a featured talk at Winter Institute 11 on Sunday about Amazon.com and the antitrust efforts of the Authors Guild, Authors United and the American Booksellers Association. Richard Russo, author and vice-president of the Authors Guild, joined Preston in conversation, and Oren Teicher, CEO of the ABA, moderated the discussion.
“The central problem is Amazon’s enormous dominance of the entire book publishing industry,” continued Preston. “Amazon overall has a market share in the entire publishing world that is about equal to Standard Oil’s share of the petroleum distribution business in 1911 when it was broken up into 34 companies–about 70%.”
In a meeting with members of the Department of Justice last September, Preston said, members of Authors United, the Authors Guild and others presented the Department with arguments for an antitrust investigation into Amazon’s practices. Unlike an earlier meeting with lawyers from the DoJ, Preston recalled, this one went well. In his estimation, the most compelling argument against Amazon is not actually an antitrust argument but in fact a First Amendment argument. Americans, he said, have been extremely concerned about the concentration of power in “any vital informational market” since the founding of the country. Now, Preston contended, Amazon has greater control of the book market than any corporation in any informational market in the history of the United States, and the company’s practices have “already distorted the free flow of information” in this country.
Amazon has also exerted such powerful downward pressure on the industry and extracted so much money from it, Preston continued, that publishers are now much more conservative and risk-averse in their publishing decisions. Debut authors and midlist authors, he said, have been “absolutely devastated” by this, and it was those authors for whom Preston had the greatest concern. The case could strongly be made, Preston argued, that there are books not being published because of Amazon’s effect on the market.
“That is the most devastating thing of all, I think,” said Preston. “The authors who will not become authors.”
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It was also “terribly scary,” Russo added, when the nation’s largest bookseller “does not care about authors and does not care about books.”
Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness and thanks to Alan for the tip.