Blog Post

Authors Guild warns of monopoly in Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads

The literary world gasped on Thursday when Amazon(s amzn) announced it had acquired Goodreads, a popular social networks that lets book lovers connect and share reviews with one another. The deal gives Amazon control of an influential literary taste-maker and provides it with access to a wealth of new book data — a development that is not sitting well with the Authors Guild.

“Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads is a textbook example of how modern Internet monopolies can be built,” said Guild president Scott Turow in a statement issued on Friday. Turow claims that Amazon sought to eliminate Goodreads as a future competitor and that it has “squelched” an important source of independent discussion and reviews.

It’s unlikely anything so dramatic will occur in the short term. As executives from Goodreads and Amazon told my colleague Laura Owen, the book network will remain for now a standalone site and the first goal of the merger is to “do no harm.”

The data and marketing insight Amazon receives from Goodreads is likely to strengthen the retailer’s already powerful position in book selling. The question of whether this will lead to an Amazon “monopoly” is another matter altogether. Under American rules on vertical integration, a company breaks antitrust laws only it obtains a dominant positions and abuses that position to harm consumers.

Turow and the Authors Guild have already been vociferous critics of Amazon. Last year, Turow accused the company of using discounting to “destroy bookselling.” More recently, the Guild joined with the Association of American Publishers to demand that Amazon be denied control over new internet suffixes “.book” and “.author.”

8 Responses to “Authors Guild warns of monopoly in Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads”

  1. Paul A. Barra

    I don’t hear small publishing houses complaining about Amazon squeezing the Big Six. Independents plus Amazon: the future of publishing.

  2. Since Turow became president of the Author’s Guild, I have found myself changed from a pleased reader of his work to someone who enjoys watching him get ticked-off. I do not think he represents authors well at all.

  3. Yada, yada, yada. For a bazillion years the large publishers controlled the book industry with an iron fist. But high level authors (like Scott Turow) loved it because they received huge contracts and the cost of books had a regular escalator. New authors struggled to become published.

    Amazon comes along and performs a bit of digital disruption magic. Lo and behold, book prices to consumers actually come down, we see significant disintermediation (operations at the huge publishing houses are MUCH smaller) and new authors find a way to self-publish via digital means, and no longer have to self-publish via a vanity publisher and then watch their “sales” or lack thereof, fail.

    Let’s look at the only “monopoly” situation we’ve seen and let’s look at REAL monopoly power. That;s power used to harm consumers in the marketplace. Yep….that would be the major publishing houses (and Apple), not Amazon.

    The concentration of economic power s not illegal. How it is used determines that.

    As someone who worked in the book industry early in my career, and a voracious reader my entire lifetime, I just don;t understand all the angst about Amazon. Amazon has been a HUGE force for good in the world of books….unless you just love to go sit in a book store and spend hours browsing there.

    But for those of us who have jobs and families and don;t really have the time do do that but still love books and reading, we can utilize Amazon and the Kindle and find more books easier, and at a lower cost.

    But for people who want to cling to old business models that just don’t work well, I’d argue that Amazon is not the problem, but rather an industry rife with inefficiency and bloated cost is. The industry could have done anything to make it better, but it took an outsider with a new perspective to shake things up. And judging by the number of books sold by Amazon (both physical and digital), a lot of people prefer their way.

    • Rebecca

      But there are still customers/readers who don’t work for big publishers at all and do love to browse bookstores and buy and read only physical books – I am one of those readers and I do feel what Amazon does is harmful to me because they are trying to remove my preferred way of getting books and if they could they’d like everyone to read e-books because they can more easily lock people into buying only from them if those people have a Kindle. If printed books stopped being published I could not read e-books. I would have to give up reading first.

      And I’m not wealthy. I spend a lot of time working. But bookstores and printed books are still just as important to me. It’s hard to make room to store all my books, but I wouldn’t give them up for anything. I just can’t read e-books – they don’t work for me, I need the physical object to hold instead of a bland looking device that doesn’t feel like a book and every page of every book looks exactly the same.


      You are a moron. Cheap, cheaper, cheapest is all the DOJ lawsuit of Apple and the large legacy publishers has fed into. CHEAPEST ISN’T ALWAYS BEST FOR U.S. CONSUMERS.
      The monopoly already exists within Amazon’s tightly closed fists. It’s only down hill from here. Enjoy your shitty 25 cents books, you clueless putz!

  4. David Thomas

    The question everyone has to ask — not just about this event but all of Amazon’s acquisitions in the last four years — is whether or not one is comfortable with one commercial entity controlling the distribution of long-form content.

    Amazon makes no claim to “not be evil” and the “do no harm” statement, given Amazon’s past and very recent behavior is at best disingenuous and worse, an outright con. Is a cultural monopoly a desirable state of freedom of the press?

    Furthermore, has Amazon done anything in the last four or five years to make anyone trust them? Even the leagues of self-published authors who sang their praises about Aunt Ammy a year ago are rethinking their positions.

  5. Sounds like another Monopoly in the making. With the closing of all physical book stores being imminent, Amazon is going from physical book giant to digital book giant to eventually only-book giant.