- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2023

A coalition of booksellers, authors and a think tank wants the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Amazon over its alleged monopoly of the bookselling industry.

In a letter published this week, the Authors Guild, American Booksellers Association and the Open Markets Institute called on the agency to look into the massive online retailer.

Amazon can up-rank and down-rank titles at a whim,” the letter reads. “As Amazon steers readers toward its own titles and away from rivals, many readers end up buying books that are less relevant, less interesting or of lower quality than had they been able to choose in an open and competitive market.”

The coalition accuses Amazon of having a virtual monopoly over the bookselling industry. The letter points out that Amazon sells 90% of physical books sold online, 80% of e-books and 50% of all physical books at retail.

Since the company began as an online bookstore, it has greatly expanded its control over the publishing and bookselling industry. Amazon’s website acts as a self-publishing platform, and the firm owns and produces its own e-book reader, Kindle. Amazon is typically able to outprice smaller booksellers, and its massive delivery infrastructure gets books on doorsteps fast.

The letter is more evidence that Amazon will soon have to face a serious antitrust lawsuit. Over the past few months, several reports emerged suggesting that regulators gathered evidence for such a lawsuit, yet the company’s dominance over the bookselling industry normally wasn’t mentioned.

Amazon is expected to meet with FTC officials this week, likely to discuss the lawsuit. 

• Vaughn Cockayne can be reached at vcockayne@washingtontimes.com.

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