Booksellers Say Wal-Mart/Amazon Price War Is Anticompetitive

Earlier this week I reported that Sears seemed to have won the book price wars started by Wal-Mart by giving away books essentially for free. At the time, I speculated that the move might actually have positive ramifications for smaller booksellers and for publishing companies. But if that's the case, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) isn't waiting around to find out. The association has filed a letter with the Department of Justice (DOJ) as of Thursday afternoon, arguing that the government should investigate what it calls "predatory" book pricing.

sears books

According to the ABA, the stakes are high. They say the price war "will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to remain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public." The letter continues that the big-box stores are "devaluing the very concept of the book," and that authors, publishers, and consumers stand to "lose a great deal" if the war continues. But the letter stops short of saying exactly how the big-box retailers have broken any laws.

As a kicker, the letter expresses vague anti-trust concerns about e-book pricing as well, pointing out that the $9 price point deserves DOJ scrutiny.

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  • Kurt Bernhardt

    It's time for the ABA to wake up. Clay Shirky has stated it clearly:
    "It makes increasingly less sense to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves - the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public - has stopped being a problem."

  • Nwankama Nwankama

    It's laughable that the ABA (i.e., the American Booksellers Association) doesn't like the price wars on books and call it anticompetitive because the practice cuts into their profits. If I may ask, who is competition primarily supposed to benefit? Is it not the consumer? My advice to booksellers is to learn to effectively manage change and see if they can benefit from the new paradigm. With e-books and audio books, the delivery of books have transformed considerably. We’re no longer in the 14th century. If they expect readers to stick to hardcovers only, and retailers like Wal-Mart. and Sears not to cut the price of those hardcopies as a result of stiff competition, they'll be dreaming and they'd certainly lose. I don't see any antitrust issues here at all. The Justice Department should just throw their letter of whining in the garbage bin (Nwankama Nwankama).

    Nwankama Nwankama
    All Hands Business Solutions, Inc.