Readersforum's Blog

April 24, 2013

Turow on Amazon/Goodreads: This is how modern monopolies can be built

Amazon’s garden walls are about to grow much higher. In a truly devastating act of vertical integration, Amazon is buying Goodreads, its only sizable competitor for reader reviews and a site known for the depth and breadth of its users’ book recommendations. Recommendations from like-minded readers appear to be the Holy Grail of online book marketing. By combining Goodreads’ recommendation database with Amazon’s own vast databases of readers’ purchase histories, Amazon’s control of online bookselling approaches the insurmountable.

“Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads is a textbook example of how modern Internet monopolies can be built,” said Scott Turow, Authors Guild president. “The key is to eliminate or absorb competitors before they pose a serious threat. With its 16 million subscribers, Goodreads could easily have become a competing on-line bookseller, or played a role in directing buyers to a site other than Amazon. Instead, Amazon has scuttled that potential and also squelched what was fast becoming the go-to venue for on-line reviews, attracting far more attention than Amazon for those seeking independent assessment and discussion of books. As those in advertising have long known, the key to driving sales is controlling information.”

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July 18, 2012

Memo to DOJ: Drop the Apple E-Books Suit

Restoring Amazon’s monopoly in digital publishing is not in the public interest.

By CHARLES E. SCHUMER

Recently the Department of Justice filed suit against Apple and major publishers, alleging that they colluded to raise prices in the digital books market. While the claim sounds plausible on its face, the suit could wipe out the publishing industry as we know it, making it much harder for young authors to get published.

The suit will restore Amazon to the dominant position atop the e-books market it occupied for years before competition arrived in the form of Apple. If that happens, consumers will be forced to accept whatever prices Amazon sets.

All of us will lose the vibrant resources a diverse publishing universe provides. As Scott Turow, president of the Author’s Guild, has explained, the Justice Department’s suit is “grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.” These losses will be particularly felt in New York, which is home not only to many publishers, but also to a burgeoning digital innovation industry.

The e-books marketplace provides a perfect example of the challenges traditional industries face in adapting to the Internet economy. Amazon took an early lead in e-book sales, capturing 90% of the retail market. Because of its large product catalog, Amazon could afford to sell e-books below cost.

This model may have served Amazon well, but it put publishers and authors at a distinct disadvantage as they continued to try to market paper books and pave a way forward for a digital future. Without viable retail competitors, publishers were forced to make a Hobson’s choice. They could allow their books to be sold at the prices Amazon set, thus undercutting their own current hardcopy sales and the future pricing expectations for digital books—or stay out of the e-books market entirely. In an increasingly digital age, the latter was simply not an option.

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March 19, 2012

Authors Guild head (and attorney) Scott Turow warns DOJ about the effects of law suit

By Paul Oliver

The Department of Justice’s confounding lawsuit against five of the Big Six publishing companies and Apple, Inc. for price-collusion has been widely regarded as a “out of the frying pan and into the fire” sort of move. The tragic lawsuit seemingly damages competition in benefit of the expansion of the leading market influence (Amazon) and thus undermines the supposed goal of the laws it seeks to uphold.

The list of the suit’s many detractors was joined on Friday by Author’s Guild President Scott Turow when the bestselling author and lawyer offered a clear-eyed and damning open letter concerning the suit. Turow’s letter opens with a grim warning that strikes at the heart of the matter:

Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

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September 19, 2011

Library Groups Blast Authors Guild Lawsuit

By Andrew Albanese

The Library Copyright Alliance (LCA), a group comprised of three major library associations, has issued a statement expressing “deep disappointment” over the lawsuit filed this week by the Authors Guild against HathiTrust and its research library partners. “The case has no merit, and completely disregards the rights of libraries and their users under the law, especially fair use,” the statement reads. “We are confident the court will not look kindly on this shortsighted and ill-conceived lawsuit.”

The LCA, which consists of the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries, represents some 300,000 information professionals and thousands of libraries nationwide. Not surprisingly, the librarians did a little research and included in their statement an acknowledgement by Authors Guild president Scott Turow, written two years earlier.

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