Booksellers Want Justice Department to Investigate Amazon

From BookRiot:

As the Federal Trade Commission moves towards what looks like a lawsuit against Amazon, several authors, booksellers, and anti-trust activists want Amazon’s bookselling to also be investigated.

The Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, and antitrust think tank Open Markets Institute sent a letter Wednesday to the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission requesting that they disrupt the monopoly on the book market that Amazon has.

The retail giant’s influence on the book world can’t be overstated — 40% of physical books sold in the U.S. are sold by Amazon, as are 80% of e-books sold. Amazon’s 2008 purchase of Audible has also helped it dominate the realm of audiobooks. The reason this is an issue for the world of publishing is that, for one, it has resulted in fewer books sold by physical bookstores across the country. And Amazon has a tendency to highlight well-known authors, making it even harder for other, lesser-known authors to get attention on their books.

The letter cites the importance of free-flowing ideas within a democracy as the reason why Amazon’s role as a bookseller should be looked into by the government, “The open access to the free flow of ideas is essential to a well-functioning democracy. The government has the responsibility to ensure that actors with oversized power cannot control or interfere with the open exchange of ideas.”

Link to the rest at BookRiot

PG suggests that it’s difficult to make a case that Amazon is harming consumers with its low prices and the huge variety of books on offer — far, far more than any physical bookstore can stock.

As far as ebooks are concerned, how many ebooks do the members of the American Booksellers Association sell each year and what is the price of those ebooks?

Does anyone know of any evidence that Amazon interferes with “access to the free flow of ideas” with its huge collection of print books, old and new, and ebooks, offered at lower prices than anyone else provides? As PG has mentioned before, being a large and successful business organization is not a violation of antitrust laws.

He further suggests that selling printed and ebooks from a stock far larger than any physical bookstore has for sale at significantly lower prices than the members of the American Booksellers Association routinely charge doesn’t hurt readers or other consumers in any measurable way.

7 thoughts on “Booksellers Want Justice Department to Investigate Amazon”

  1. Sounds like they want the government to “look into the free flow of information” the way they looked into the free flow of information at Twitter and Facebook.

  2. Fixed it.

    And [The Big Five Publishers have] a tendency to highlight well-known authors, making it even harder for other, lesser-known authors to get attention on their books.

  3. Agree. It’s everyone’s responsibility to promote authors who don’t sell well. We have an obligation to make sure their voices lift humanity. Makes one wonder why publishers promote well-known authors. Why could that be? Why would a publisher spend money promoting a well-known author when he could spend it on an unknown who hasn’t sold much? Silly publishers.

    • Anybodywho signs up with traditional publishers is agreeing to abide by their processes and practices. Which means accepting that some animals are more equal. A bit late to change their mind after the fact. No mulligans in life-of- copyright contracts.

      • Except, that is, if life-of-copyright contracts became the commercial custom through means that themselves violate antitrust law.

        <sarcasm> Not that I’m suggesting that commercial publishers would ever engage in such misconduct. Oh, no, they arrived at “25% of net for functionally identical definitions of ‘net'” in a nine-month period without any collusion whatsoever, while still continuing to fully compete on electronic-publishing terms. And life-of-the-copyright contracts never, ever were imposed to evade the consequences and requirements of copyright law, either. </sarcams>

        But that wouldn’t make the ‘zon the defendant, now, would it…

        • I heard the Enron allumni were impressed they managed to turn 50% of gross of a growing product line into 25% of “net” plus 2% of a declining one.

          “We were in the wrong business!” wailed Skelling.

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