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Booksellers, authors demand FTC investigate Amazon’s alleged monopoly

US booksellers and authors urged the Federal Trade Commission to research Amazon’s alleged monopolistic grip over the industry on Wednesday — at the same time as the e-commerce giant already faces a looming US antitrust lawsuit.

Amazon critics who signed the letter included the American Booksellers Association, the Authors Guild and the antitrust nonprofit Open Markets Institute.

They argued the FTC should probe how “Amazon used and continues to make use of unfair methods of competition” to achieve a stranglehold on book sales and wield undue influence over which titles are promoted or demoted.

The damning letter emerged at the same time as Amazon brass was reportedly set to satisfy with FTC officials for a so-called “last rites” meeting, Politico reported — a move widely considered the last final step before a proper federal antitrust motion targeting its massive online retail operation.

“Amazon has an oversized power to manage what readers see when browsing for books. Only Amazon understands how its algorithm works,” said the letter, which was addressed to Lina Khan, the embattled FTC chair and noted antitrust crusader, and Jonathan Kanter, the Justice Department’s antitrust chief.

Critics say Amazon has a monopoly over the bookselling industry.
Stefan Jeremiah

In a piece labeled “ongoing harms,” the groups highlight Amazon’s sales dominance throughout the US publishing industry.

The e-commerce giant purportedly sells greater than 50% of all physical books within the retail marketplace, in addition to 90% of physical books which are sold online and greater than 80% of e-books.

The groups made several accusations about Amazon’s allegedly anticompetitive actions, including “strong-arm tactics to force traditional publishers to conform to onerous contract terms and conditions” and self-preferential treatment for book listings and pricing.

Lina Khan
Lina Khan is the chair of the Federal Trade Commission.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images

“Amazon effectively uses the identical model that the railroads utilized in the nineteenth century — i.e., if you wish to get your product to market, you pay the tax and play by their rules,” the letter said. “It has the facility to act in this way since it completely dominates almost every aspect of the book market.”

Meanwhile, the variety of brick-and-mortar bookstores within the US has plunged from about 12,000 in 1998 to “little greater than 6,000” in 2019, the letter said, citing data from Statista.

The Post has reached out to Amazon for comment on the letter.

The FTC is reportedly preparing a significant lawsuit against Amazon.
Stefan Jeremiah

The scope of a possible FTC or DOJ lawsuit targeting Amazon’s business, including whether it could scrutinize its bookselling business, stays unclear.

In late June, Bloomberg reported that the FTC was prepping a “far-reaching antitrust suit focused on Amazon’s core online marketplace.”

The agency reportedly plans to argue that Amazon improperly pressures sellers into using its logistics hub.

Amazon was reportedly set for a “last rites” meeting with the FTC this week.

As The Post reported in June, Amazon has equipped for the looming legal battle by hiring a variety of ex-FTC officials to help its defense.

Over the last several years, Amazon has faced criticism from lawmakers over its alleged promotion of its own product listings on the expense of third-party vendors energetic on its marketplace.

Amazon has denied wrongdoing and publicly lobbied against proposed laws targeting Big Tech firms, such because the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, which might block firms from boosting their very own services and products in search results.

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