A year ago, Amazon was looking pretty good after Apple was found guilty of overcharging consumers by millions of dollars for e-books. But a handful of organizations are now pushing regulators to investigate Amazon for using its dominance in the electronic book sales to harm the interests of readers.
A bevy of groups are behind the accusations, including The Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of Authors’ Representatives and Authors United, according to The New York Times, which obtained a copy of a letter sent from the Authors Guild to the Department of Justice calling them to investigate Amazon.
The letter was reportedly sent this week, although The Authors Guild has not replied to emails from GeekWire seeking comment. In the letter, it makes Amazon out to be the bad guy despite the court’s earlier ruling that Apple had colluded with book publishers to inflate the price of books.
“The irony of this decision is that Apple’s actions actually helped to open the e-book market and to reduce Amazon’s monopoly from a 90% market share in 2009 to around 67% today,” writes Roxana Robinson, president of The Authors Guild. Rather than focus on lower book prices, Robinson argues that the Justice department should be focused on supporting a “thriving, competitive and robust literary marketplace.”
If you recall, in the original antitrust lawsuit filed more than three years ago against Apple, prosecutors had argued that Apple used Amazon’s aggressive e-book discounting to make allies with the publishers. So, when the iPad launched in 2010, Apple let publishers set book prices, which led to Amazon losing the ability to price most e-book best sellers at $9.99. The result was rising prices.
The New York Times says the campaign against Amazon is being organized by Douglas Preston, a Hachette writer who leads Authors United. It was Hachette that had a nasty fight with Amazon recently about e-book prices.
Amazon’s publishing dominance is constantly in the limelight.
Last month, the European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s e-book contracts with publishers, examining whether their terms give the Seattle-based company an unfair advantage over its competitors in the market. The investigation will examine clauses that give Amazon the right to be informed when publishers offer alternative terms to competing e-book platforms, and the right to receive terms at least as favorable as its competitors receive.
Whether the DOJ will decide to investigate Amazon will have a lot to do with whether they can commiserate with authors, or will continue taking the side of consumers.