NCIBA Urges Legislators to Keep DOJ on Their Radar

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With news outlets reporting that the Department of Justice could reach a settlement in the next few weeks with Apple and some of the publishers that have adopted the agency model to sell e-books, Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, wrote this week to Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to express concern that the DOJ investigation into charges of price fixing between Apple and five publishers using the agency model to sell e-books “is ignoring the real story and the actual ramifications of a decision in favor of Amazon.com.”

Landon’s letter cited an April 1 story in the Seattle Times, which, he observed, “paints a vivid portrait of a company intent on abusing the book business to lure new customers into the fold.”

Landon urged the legislators to “keep the DOJ on your radar and view its efforts through perhaps a different filter. This is a power grab orchestrated by Amazon, and the Seattle Times article shows why that should be troubling.” The text of Landon’s letter is below.

Regarding the letter, ABA CEO Oren Teicher said, “NCIBA has done a very good job of articulating both the magnitude of this issue and the important role that elected officials can play in working to ensure that the Department of Justice acts in a way that encourages equitable competition and true value for consumers. I know that Hut has shared his letter with others in our industry and I strongly believe that the time is right for all of us to make our opinions known to national legislators on this critical issue.”

Last month, ABA President Becky Anderson of Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, Illinois; Vice President Steve Bercu of BookPeople in Austin, Texas; CEO Oren Teicher; and General Counsel Deanne Ottaviano of Arent Fox, LLP, met with representatives of the DOJ in Washington, D.C., in connection with their investigation to express ABA’s support for agency model pricing of e-books. (For more about that meeting, see Oren Teicher’s letter to members in this week’s BTW. )


Dear Senator Boxer,

I am very concerned that the DOJ’s investigation into supposed price fixing with regard to e-books is ignoring the real story and the actual ramifications of a decision in favor of Amazon.com.

The story linked below, from Amazon’s hometown newspaper, paints a vivid portrait of a company intent on abusing the book business to lure new customers into the fold. 

Whether it is demanding exclusive discounts from suppliers, selling books at a loss, or practicing sales tax avoidance with a vengeance, Amazon continues to prove itself a truly awful corporate citizen. 

And now, it seeks to sway the DOJ to do what Amazon was unable to  -- bully publishers to change the agency price model and allow Amazon to destroy the e-book market with predatory pricing. The notion that Amazon selling e-books at below-cost prices is good for consumers is nonsense. The company wants to use e-books as a loss leader to attract new business and to kill off competition. That will, of course, lead to fewer choices for consumers and, eventually, higher prices. 

I hope you will keep the DOJ on your radar and view its efforts through perhaps a different filter. This is a power grab orchestrated by Amazon, and the Seattle Times article shows why that should be troubling.

 Respectfully,

 Hut Landon
Executive Director
Northern California Independent Booksellers Association