• Kaitlyn Drake

The American Booksellers Association vs. Amazon

Back in March 2021, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) claimed that Amazon used unfair practices to control the literary industry. Their public brief details Amazon's various practices to defeat competitors, most of which boiled down to what the ABA claims are “exclusionary, anti-competitive pricing schemes” (American Booksellers Association). According to the ABA, Amazon is such a gargantuan corporation that just the online bookselling component of the business “is as large as Standard Oil’s before it was dismantled” (American Booksellers Association). This does not take into account all of the other submarkets that the ABA claims Amazon dominates. As well as this, Amazon’s Kindle and Fire e-readers are “priced at or below cost,” which other booksellers cannot afford to do (American Booksellers Association). This practice aids Amazon in driving out their competition and remaining at the top of the market. The ABA writes that Amazon has driven out other competitors in the past, and are suing due to what they see as predatory actions the company has taken within the online bookselling market.


The ABA eventually ends the brief by calling for Amazon’s dismantlement, a conclusion they reach after over fifteen pages of arguments. Instead of operating under one company, the ABA suggests that Amazon must be “broken up into at least four autonomous companies” that would continue Amazon’s current operations on a smaller scale (American Booksellers Association). Amazon can also stop selling books that promote certain ideologies that the company does not stand for, including racist, sexist, and homophobic schools of thought (American Booksellers Association).


As of May 2021, nothing has happened to deter Amazon’s predatory behavior other than a lawsuit filed against them and the other Big Five publishing houses (Klann). To combat this as much as they can, the ABA promotes books against Amazon, independent booksellers, and information about Amazon’s practices. Many others have joined the conversation, including Dani Blum, a new assistant at the New York Times. She writes that many consumers face the decision between the convenience of Amazon and the ethical dilemma of supporting the company (Blum). To support authors and publishers, Blum suggests that going to virtual events hosted by publishing houses, buying from independent booksellers (physically or online), and visiting websites of lesser-known publishers is the way to go (Blum). A quick Google search can yield several alternatives to the bookselling giant.


If Amazon were to be broken into smaller groups, independent bookstores would unquestionably do better. Nina Barrett, the owner of Bookends & Beginnings and “the single named plaintiff” on the Amazon/Big Five Lawsuit, says that Amazon is “devaluing” the work of independent booksellers by essentially monopolizing the bookselling industry (Aizin). However, if the independent booksellers were to win this lawsuit, Barrett points out that customer will not only be buying a book at their store but “ you got the experience of seeing all these other books you may not have seen elsewhere and you got to spend a lovely afternoon with your best friend” (Aizin). Hopefully, independent booksellers will be able to come out of this lawsuit with more money to finance the experiences they provide to their customers as well as preserving the integrity of authors’ works everywhere.






Works Cited

Aizin, Rebecca. “Nina Barrett vs. Amazon.” Chicago Reader, Chicago Reader, 19 May 2021,

American Booksellers Association Advocacy Division. “American Monopoly: Amazon’s Anti-Competitive Behavior Is in Violation of Antitrust Laws .” Bookweb.org, 2021,

Blum, Dani. “Where Should You Buy Your Books?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Apr. 2021, Klann, Ashley. “Hagens Berman: Booksellers Sue Amazon and Big Five Publishers for Alleged Monopoly Price-Fixing the U.S. Print Book Market.” Business Wire, 25 Mar. 2021,

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