The launch of an antitrust probe against book publishers, which the US Department of Justice has threatened, couldn't have come at a weirder time. In the two previous Monday Notes, we explained how Amazon is manoeuvring itself into a position to dominate the entire book industry. The Seattle giant keeps moving up the food chain, from controlling ebook distribution (in addition to selling print books), to competing against publishers and even agents by luring bestselling authors. No one would bet a dime on the printed book as it reaches its peak while ebook sales keep exceeding expectations.
So why is the DOJ waving the threat of an antitrust action?
publishers – and one distributor, Apple – are in the the US
administration's crosshairs: Hachette Book Group (a division of
Lagardère Group), Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp), MacMillan
(Holtzbrinck GmbH), Penguin (Pearson PLC), and HarperCollins (News
Corp). All are said to be suspected of ebook price collusion. (The Wall
Street Journal broke the story on 9 March).