Andrew AlbaneseAt the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute meeting this week in Denver, indie booksellers heard their online nemesis Amazon branded a monopolist and a tax evader. Douglas Preston, who has led the Authors United movement to force the Dept of Justice to charge Amazon with antitrust violations, even told ABA members that the company is a contemporary equivalent of Standard Oil, the Gilded Age giant that finally fell to the trust-busting sword of President Theodore Roosevelt.

Amazon unquestionably makes a big and easy to identify target. Yet the attacks on it raise questions not so easily answered by the epithet “monopolist,” says Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer.

“There are serious issues facing us now, and in our information future,” he admits. “Yes, Amazon is the clear market leader. Yes they are brutal negotiators. But if they went away tomorrow, you could still get books and publish easily. You could still exchange ideas, and speech. God forbid a reader should have to patronize Barnes & Noble, or Apple, or Google, or Kobo, or Sony, or Smashwords, or an indie bookstore.

“Whatever Amazon is doing, there is still a vibrant supply chain existing alongside them in publishing that has grown by leaps and bounds in efficiency,” Albanese tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally.  “In that light, the call for an Amazon action looks to me to be less about the free flow of ideas than about preserving a market position.”

Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.

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