Wait just a minute here

I just read on Writer Beware that Amazon UK has been using pressure tactics with book publishers to get better terms. And, of course, everyone's already heard about Amazon's tactics in the US related to POD and the Kindle. (If you haven't, check out Maya Reynold's blog--she does the best industry breakdowns I've read.)

This is the danger of Amazon that is just now starting to become apparent--Amazon is thisclose to obtaining monopoly power. In antitrust terms, a monopoly is what happens when one company has so much market power that it can control access, both to consumers and to manufacturers. Of course, Amazon would quibble with me about that--physical bookstores still exist, and Barnes & Noble and Borders both now have websites, and blah blah blah.

But any decent antitrust lawyer will tell you that "market power" is determined by your definition of the market. And in the online bookseller market, Amazon has very little competition.

And any decent antitrust lawyer will also tell you that a monopoly very rarely results in advantages to the consumer. That's why the laws are "antitrust" laws. They are ANTI monopolies (corporations used to use trusts to hide their monopolistic practices).

Sure, you may be able to buy your books at a discount from Amazon and get free shipping and yay! Good for you! Except that once Amazon has driven the other players out of the market, those prices aren't going to stay low. And Amazon has started listing publishers as competition in its corporate fillings, which means that it's looking to start expanding its reach upstream (to book producers) as well as downstream (to consumers). And if they're successful at that, that means less choice.

Think of Amazon like the Wal-Mart of online bookselling. At first, when Wal-Mart is coming to your town, everyone is all excited about it. Everything's so cheap! You've never gotten a television for $29.99 before! But then, you start noticing that the local music store is closing. And the local hardware store. And the local gas station. And the local book store. And pretty soon the only place to buy anything in your town is Wal-Mart. And then Wal-Mart decides it doesn't want to carry music that has swear words in the lyrics. Or books that are irreverant about religion. Or parts for foreign cars. So your town no longer has those things, unless you order them off the internet. At Amazon. *crap!*

Like I said, when one company gains control of a market, the result is very rarely good for the consumer.


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