Authors and Booksellers Seek Amazon Antitrust Inquiry

By Deborah Jensen 

PrestoncCraigDilgerfortheNYTThe American Booksellers Association, the Authors Guild of America, and two other groups together representing thousands of authors, agents, and indie booksellers, are asking that the U.S. Dept. of Justice examine Amazon’s practices for antitrust violations.

David Streitfeld writing in the New York Times reports that the Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of Authors’ Representatives, and Authors United wrote in letters sent this week to the Justice Department 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.”

This new action was organized by Douglas Preston, a Hachette writer who has become a vocal critic of Amazon, writing an open letter to the company’s directors published as a full-page in the New York Times in August last year. Preston told Streitfeld:

“Disruption is healthy, an inevitable byproduct of a world that changes. But there isn’t a single example in American history where the concentration of power in one company has in the long run benefited consumers.”

The New York Times notes that, “the American Booksellers Association and the Authors Guild have rarely united in such a fashion, but they said they increasingly realized that their fates were joined.” Judy Blume, Richard Russo, and Roxana Robinson are current officers of the guild. Sherman Alexie, Jennifer Egan, James Gleick, Nicholas Lemann, Annette Gordon-Reed, and Preston are members of its council, which serves as its board.

Groups within the European Union are also taking a closer look at Amazon’s practices. The EU announced an antitrust investigation into the giant last month.

[Photo: Craig Dilger for The New York Times]