A group of authors, their representatives and booksellers have banded together to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Amazon for antitrust violations. The move by authors and booksellers comes on the heels of an ugly contract dispute, during which Amazon made it difficult to buy books from publisher Hachette. Five years ago, Amazon secretly asked regulators to examine the practices of leading publishers, a move that ultimately gave the e-commerce company more influence.
As reported by The New York Times, the Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of Authors’ Representatives and Authors United sent letters to the Justice Department stating that, “Amazon has used its dominance in ways that we believe harm the interests of America’s readers, impoverish the book industry as a whole, damage the careers of (and generate fear among) many authors, and impede the free flow of ideas in our society.”
Both groups have tried before, unsuccessfully, to interest the Justice Department in Amazon.
Hachette author Douglas Preston, who formed Authors United and became an influential Amazon critic, organized the current call for action. He joined forces with Barry C. Lynn, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, who authored “Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction,” a 24-page position paper.
“There isn’t a single example in American history where the concentration of power in one company has in the long run benefited consumers,” said Preston.
Amazon, which asserts that the way to build “a healthy reading culture” is to keep prices as low as possible, is estimated to sell more than one-third of new print books, a record-breaking figure, and dominates the e-book space.
Among the criticisms of Amazon is that it engages in content control, sells books based on author’s prominence or the book’s political leanings, prices some books below cost to drive other booksellers out of business, and blocks and curtails the sale of “millions of books by thousands of authors” to pressure publishers for better deals.