Now that the price fixing case against Apple and has presumably ended authors and booksellers are out to turn the tables on Amazon, the whistleblower that first called the Big Six and Apple's price fixing scheme to the Department of Justice's attention. On Monday Authors United, the Authors Guild, the Association of Authors' Representatives, and the American Booksellers Association wrote several letters to the DOJ with their concerns that Amazon is leveraging its power as a monopoly to control prices and limit competition within the book industry.
Five years after Amazon secretly asked regulators to investigate leading publishers - a case that ended up reinforcing the e-commerce company's clout - groups representing thousands of authors, agents and independent booksellers are asking the United States Department of Justice to examine Amazon for antitrust violations.Perhaps stealing a page from Amazon, which often promotes policies that would benefit it by talking about what customers want, the groups said their concerns were more about freedom of expression and a healthy culture than about themselves.
When I reported on the story on Tuesday, I knew little more than that the negotiations had hit a snag. The original BI article didn't include any direct quotes, just unnamed sources, but it was later updated to include this statement from Amazon:
I can't comment on that rumor. I can say that we have offered Harper the same terms for a contract that Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan have all recently agreed to.
I can also add that Publishers Lunch said that the contract negotiation had been going on for over a year.
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The writer Ursula K. Le Guin recently weighed in on Amazon's dispute with the publisher Hachette over e-book pricing. Referring to how Amazon is making Hachette books harder to buy on its site, she said, "We're talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, 'disappearing' an author."
Her statement was greeted with ridicule and outrage in the places on the Internet where those who use Amazon's self-publishing platform hang out. Here are a few of the more printable comments from the Passive Voice blog:
lately Amazon has become the Goofus of publishing news, the surly, inconsiderate and gauche kid who never seems to get anything right. This is not to say that Amazon is any less powerful in the marketplace or less likely to triumph in its ongoing war against book publishers. But on the P.R. front, in its most recent battle against the Hachette Book Group, the online retailer has stumbled again and again.