Authors group seeks antitrust probe of Amazon

August 21, 2015 09:15
Amazon, the largest bookseller in the US, controls about 40 percent of the new book market and nearly two-thirds of the e-book market, according to estimates. Photo: Internet Inc. has “unprecedented power” over the book publishing market and should be investigated for antitrust practices.

A group of prominent authors wants the US Department of Justice to look into what it claims is a monopoly, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Authors United, a concern group formed last year in response to Amazon’s bruising negotiations with publisher Hachette Book Group, sent a letter to the DOJ’s top antitrust official. 

The group is accusing Amazon of repeatedly blocking or limiting the sale of thousands of books on its website, selling some books below cost to gain market share and trying to compel customers to buy books from its own imprints rather than from other companies.

A justice department spokesman said the agency will review the group’s materials.

Hachette, a unit of Lagardère SCA, settled with Amazon in their seven-month dispute, primarily over pricing.

Authors United gathered 575 signatures for the letter addressed to Assistant Attorney William Baer who oversees the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

The list includes prominent authors such as Scott Turow, Nelson DeMille and Nora Roberts.

Amid the height of the backlash against Amazon last year, Authors United collected about 1,000 signatures for a letter directed at Amazon and published as a full-page ad in the New York Times.

Amazon is the nation’s largest single bookseller, controlling about 40 percent of the new book market and nearly two-thirds of the e-book market, according to some estimates.

That also makes it a crucial avenue for publishers to sell older titles that would otherwise not get shelf space as the ranks of the largest bookstores have diminished.

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