Why Authors United’s Antitrust Letter Against Amazon is Doomed
It’s been two days since Authors United
The Authors Guild formally sent its letter to the DoJ, asking for an antitrust investigation, and the pundits are starting to weigh in.
Mathew Ingram has a new post up over at Fortune this morning. As you may recall from his time at GigaOm, Ingram is no friend of Amazon, and he doesn’t think this complaint has a chance in hell.
After neatly sidestepping the question of whether Amazon was a monopoly (it’s not) or even had market power (it doesn’t), Ingram points out that:
But the more important point is that simply having a monopoly (in the sense of having a dominant share of a discrete market) isn’t a breach of U.S. antitrust law, although most people seem to believe that it is—or that it should be. What’s illegal is using that monopoly to stifle competition. And not just to stifle competition, but to do so in a way that makes things worse for consumers.
This is where the Guild’s argument falls apart, and it’s the reason why the group is trying to distract the Justice Department by talking about the impact Amazon has had on free expression, etc. Whether the Guild likes it or not, one of the main benchmarks for whether an antitrust offense has taken place is whether consumers have been harmed—and all the available evidence shows that Amazon’s behavior in the e-book market in particular has helped consumers by keeping prices low.
Ingram then goes on to miss the obvious flaw in Authors United’s
The Authors Guild’s arguments about Amazon’s impact on free expression, which is that in the age of the internet, it is simply not possible for one retailer to gain such a dominance of the multitude of channels of free expressions now available (I’d be more worried about Mozilla or Google, and the control they have through their web browsers).
Instead he points out that "the evidence is overwhelming that with the Kindle platform, Amazon has done far more for the free flow of information and expression than the Guild or the Big Five publishers have".
Thus is true.
image by wwarby