Book Publishing’s Real Nemesis

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[Commentary] The Justice Department finally took aim at the monopolistic monolith that threatened to dominate the book industry. So imagine the shock when the bullet aimed at threats to competition went whizzing by Amazon — which not long ago had a 90 percent stranglehold on e-books — and instead, struck five of the six biggest publishers and Apple, a minor player in the realm of books. That’s the modern equivalent of taking on Standard Oil but breaking up Ed’s Gas ’N’ Groceries on Route 19 instead.

Let’s stipulate that there may have been some manner of price-fixing here, perhaps even arranged in “private rooms for dinner in upscale Manhattan restaurants,” as the complaint darkly charged. The Justice Department is entrusted with, among other things, protecting the interests of American consumers and, given a narrow focus on price, its move on the publishers make sense. But pull back a few thousand feet and take a broader look at the interests of consumers. From the very beginning and with increasingly regularity, Amazon has used its market power to bully and dictate.


Book Publishing’s Real Nemesis