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A bit of ranting here on behalf of authors

A group of authors have banded together to petition the Department of Justice to investigate Amazon and its stifling of competition in the market for both physical and e-books. I'm very glad to see this and I hope it leads to action on the part of the DoJ.

The letter says, among other things:

In recent years, 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.

The statistics they cite are pretty stunning: Amazon now controls the sale of more than 75% of online sales of physical books, more than 65% of e-book sales, more than 40% of sales of new books, and 85% of ebook sales of self-published authors.

It's more than a little worrisome that one single corporation has that much say over what is easily available to the general public. Not to mention their detrimental effect on small independent booksellers, who throughout history have been far more sensitive and responsive to local and non-mainstream interests. When the giant gorilla in the room only offers you best-sellers while sitting on and squashing everyone else, it's a little bothersome. Not to mention the fact that Jeff Bezos has admitted in so many words that he doesn't give a rat's ass about books; all those books are loss leaders to Amazon who just uses/sells the data thus gathered. As the longer version of the letter puts it:

The idea that Amazon would intentionally use its power in a way that vitiates the book industry strikes many Americans as counterintuitive, much like choosing to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. But Amazon's goal has never been to sell only books. On the contrary, Amazon executives from the first spoke of their intent to build what they called "the everything store." Amazon analyzed twenty product categories before choosing books as the company's debut "commodity."

The letter goes on to put the situation in historical context with the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, anti-trust laws going back to the 1866 Telegraph Act preventing a monopoly of that particular brand-new information highway, and the recent FCC Net Neutrality rulings.

While Amazon contends that its goal is to serve consumers by eliminating middlemen in publishing (which it calls the "gatekeepers"), Amazon's executives have also made clear they intend to make Amazon itself the sole gatekeeper in this industry. But what's at stake here is not merely monopoly control of a commodity; what is at stake is whether we allow one of the nation's most important marketplaces of information to be dominated and supervised by a single corporation...The conviction that antitrust law plays a vital role in protecting freedom of expression continues to this day. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the Turner Broadcasting case, wrote, "Assuring that the public has access to a multiplicity of information sources is a governmental purpose of the highest order, for it promotes values central to the First Amendment," and that, "[t]he First Amendment's command that government not impede the freedom of speech does not disable the government from taking steps to ensure that private interests not restrict, through physical control of a critical pathway of communication, the free flow of information and ideas."

So for myself, I'm boycotting Amazon and any possible way they might make money off me, including all their brands and subsidiaries. I'll still use abebooks.com to find used books, but I'll go straight to the seller and buy direct from them so Amazon doesn't get a cut. I'll still use goodreads (because damn it, I was there BEFORE the behemoth ate them) but I won't use any of their links to buy anything.

Now I just have to talk Mr Psmith out of renewing his Amazon Prime membership and get him to drop his Amazon credit card...


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Jul. 18th, 2015 04:05 am (UTC)
I have an easy way to boycott Amazon
Since I cannot have a credit card, I cannot purchase anything online and the like.

It really hurts not having one whenever I see something on some of my favourite sites like Meow(dot)com, which is a time sink/catnip patch for me or an event/convention that I want to attend.

Meow(dot)com is paradise for ailurophiles and most, if not all, of their products cannot be found on amazon.
Jul. 22nd, 2015 09:58 pm (UTC)
I'm very weary of buying anything online in general but thanks for the heads up with more details.
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