I received an email that some of you probably received too. It’s a follow-up to letters some of us signed in support of Hatchette authors in their dispute with Amazon. Now the dispute has expanded into fundamental questions of freedom of information in a democracy. Amazon now has more monopoly power over books than Standard Oil had over oil in its robber baron days.
Read the NY Times article, by David Streitfeld, about this development; and the open letter to authors, from Douglas Preston, below:
To join the campaign to rein in Amazon, go to http://www.authorsunited.net/note.html.
Once again I’d like to thank you for your important help in the Amazon/Hachette dispute. I’m writing because the time has come to take the next step, as promised, and I’d like to ask your support again. We would like you to consider signing a letter to the Justice Department, requesting it to examine Amazon’s control of the book market.
You may have seen the article in the New York Times that just broke the news about our effort.
The settlement of the dispute did not change the fundamental problem: that one corporation now dominates the book market in the United States. We believe Amazon has used its power in ways that harm the interests of authors, readers, booksellers, and the publishing industry as a whole. In the year since the settlement, Amazon’s power has only increased.
We consulted antitrust lawyers in the preparation of this letter. They pointed out many ways they believe Amazon abuses its enormous market share. But what concerned them most was a First Amendment issue: never in American history has a single corporation gained control of a vital marketplace of information. For a hundred and fifty years, Congress and the courts have diligently prevented a concentration of power and ownership in telegraph, radio, newspapers, television, book retailing, and the Internet. And yet, right now, according to the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, Amazon has about as large a monopoly control of the book business as Standard Oil did in the petroleum distribution business during its heyday.
Our letter to the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice is posted here. (There is a much longer, footnoted document at the site, which outlines the reasoning and sources behind the letter. We’re not asking you to read, endorse or sign that document; that is only for those of you who wish to understand more about the issues touched on in our letter. That document will be a separate submission to the Justice Department, but it is not from Authors United.)
If you would like to sign the letter, please email me back with the phrase, “I will sign” in the subject line. This is an opt-in effort: I will only put your name on the letter if I get an email from you authorizing me to do so. If you don’t wish to sign, you do not need to respond to this email.
I am very much hoping you will stay with us for this effort. This is a far bigger issue than the Amazon/Hachette dispute. This is about preserving diversity and competition in the publishing industry and protecting the ability of authors to earn a decent living. Most of all, it is about maintaining the free flow of ideas in our society.
P.S. I might add that the Authors Guild helped write this letter, and the American Booksellers Association and the Association of Authors’ Representatives have strongly endorsed it.
P.O. Box 4790
Santa Fe, NM 87502