From Pacific Standard:
In the summer of 2014, a very loud dispute emerged between Amazon, the ubiquitous online retailer, and Hachette, the publisher of books by such well-known authors as Malcolm Gladwell and Paul Ryan.
The exact details of the feud were never publicly revealed, but reports say it centered on e-book pricing. At the same time the blow-up was taking place, Amazon engaged in a variety of negotiating tactics meant to disadvantage the publishing house: eliminating next-day or two-day shipping for Hachette (Hachette books took two to five weeks to ship), declining to make Hachette books available for pre-order, and allegedly fiddling with its algorithm to make it difficult for customers to find Hachette books on an Amazon search.
Hachette’s writers were outraged. One group of authors announced plans to request an inquiry by the Department of Justice into Amazon’s business practices. Others publicly lamented Amazon’s behavior.
. . . .
Two years later, the company’s growing clout and its swelling ambition continues to provoke anxiety. In the run-up to the 2016 election, antitrust policy, particularly with respect to big tech companies, emerged as an interesting new battleground in the progressive political movement. In a now-infamous speech on antitrust policy, Elizabeth Warren focused specific attention on Amazon, saying the company “uses its position as the dominant bookseller to steer consumers to books published by Amazon to the detriment of other publishers.”
. . . .
Amazon’s increasing market power is tough to deny.
According to a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a non-profit research shop that advocates for sustainable community development, Amazon will capture 46 percent of online retail sales in 2016, up from just 22 percent in 2011. The company’s market capitalization surpassed Walmart’sfor the first time in 2015 (Walmart’s revenues are still much higher than Amazon’s).
. . . .
“Today, half of all U.S. households are subscribed to the membership program Amazon Prime, half of all online shopping searches start directly on Amazon, and Amazon captures nearly one in every two dollars that Americans spend online,” ILSR researchers Olivia LaVecchia and Stacy Mitchell write. “Amazon sells more books, toys, and by next year, apparel and consumer electronics than any retailer online or off, and is investing heavily in its grocery business.”
. . . .
While few would disagree that Amazon’s ascendance has been bad for its competitors, it’s less clear whether the company is harming consumers. After all, it delivers excellent consumer service and has millions of satisfied customers. In fact, Amazon mostly uses its market power to demand lower prices for consumers, the opposite behavior of what one would expect from a traditional monopolist.
Still, its dominance concerns progressives.
Link to the rest at Pacific Standard and thanks to John for the tip.
PG checked on the author of the cited Amazon study, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. It appears that major ILSR-supported initiatives include recycling, community gardens and opposition to Walmart. They are not in favor of global warming. Opposition to Amazon appears to be a recent addition to their catalog of activities.
PG didn’t see any indication that this small organization had any expertise regarding antitrust laws. He was unable to locate a list of donors.
As PG was reading the OP, a thought entered his mind.
Suppose Jeff Bezos wakes up one morning and says, “You know, those Hachette authors were right. Amazon really is a terrible company. Think of all the local bookstores Amazon has destroyed and all the worry we have caused for New York publishers.
“I need to feel good when I go to work. From this day forward, Amazon is out of the book business. Not another book leaves our warehouses. We’ll return our entire inventory to publishers so there won’t be any shortage of supply for real bookstores. Ebooks are not real books and everybody really wants printed books instead, so we’ll immediately erase all ebook files from our servers.
“When somebody searches for a book on Amazon, we’ll show them a screen that says, ‘Jeff wants a clear conscience. Go to your local bookstore to buy this book. We’re not going to put any more Moms and Pops out of business.'”