14 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY JANUARY 11-17, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com Off the Page A broad strategy is needed to contain Amazon’s monopoly and save the book marketplace. By Sandeep Vaheesan and Tara Pincock FORUM It’s a common trope in movies: A mob enforcer walks into a shop, looks around, and then says to the owner, “Nice place you got here. It’d be a shame if something happened to it.” Every viewer understands a shakedown is in the works. The shop owner can either pay up immediately, or else his livelihood will burn to the ground. But what do we call it when a large firm makes a similar, although not quite so blatant, threat to a smaller firm that is reliant on its business? In the book market, this is Amazon’s position in relation to publishing houses. Amazon is the largest bookseller in the world. Consequently, the publishing industry relies on it to get its product to market. Amazon earns an estimated $28 billion a year from selling books. In 2020, the House Judiciary Committee found that Amazon controlled more than 50 percent of the print book market and more than 80 percent of the e-book market. In other words, if a publisher’s titles aren’t available on Amazon, it might as well close shop. That’s why all publishers, including those in the “Big Five” such as Hachette and Penguin Random House, are afraid of doing anything that might upset the company. Amazon has proven time and again that it won’t hesitate to retaliate against publishers that step out of line. These retaliatory games include removing the “buy” button beneath a title’s listing on the site, delaying shipping books to customers, claiming that titles are out of stock when Amazon is actually just refusing to restock the titles, and rejecting pre-sales for new books. This kind of pressure represents a civic injury to us all, since a vibrant publishing market is critical for the free exchange of ideas. Facing an antitrust lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission and 17 states in September, Amazon will surely insist that it has achieved its dominance over the book market by competing in entirely legitimate ways. But in its early years, Amazon enjoyed a critical competitive advantage over brick-and-mortar bookstores by exploiting loopholes to avoid collecting sales taxes. According to Census data, between 1998 and 2019, more than 50 percent of U.S. bookstores closed. Amazon’s unfair practices contributed to this mass extinction. Federal and state antitrust enforcers have ample legal authority to challenge Amazon’s unfair competitive practices. The 2023 antitrust suit is a welcome and necessary first step. But it must be part of an array of actions. There’s a model to follow in the federal antitrust campaign against Google. In 2020, the government filed suit against Google over its practices in the search market— then, in 2023, federal regulators, in partnership with eight state attorneys general, launched an allied complaint against Google’s monopolization of digital advertising. In much the same way, the antitrust action against Amazon should help clear the way for a new case that focuses on the corporation’s domination of the book market. Sandeep Vaheesan is legal director and Tara Pincock is policy counsel for Open Markets Institute, an anti-monopoly advocacy organization. OPINION Amazon won’t hesitate to retaliate against publishers. Apply for Open Positions on Monterey’s Boards, Committees, and Commissions Get involved and impact your community! The City of Monterey is accepting applications from Monterey residents for volunteer positions on the following boards, committees, and commissions: • Appeals Hearing Board – One member (previously noticed recent vacancy) • Building and Housing Appeals Board – One member (previously noticed recent vacancy) • Disabled Access Appeals Board – Two members (one previously noticed recent vacancy, one ongoing vacancy) • Neighborhood and Community Improvement Program (NCIP) Committee– • One Representative for the Monterey Vista neighborhood (previously noticed recent vacancy) • One Alternate each for the following neighborhoods: Alta Mesa and Deer Flats (ongoing vacancies) • Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) – Two members (one new vacancy, one previously noticed recent vacancy) Applications for all vacancies will be accepted on an ongoing basis until the positions are filled. Priority review for the new PRC vacancy will be given to applications received by noon (12 p.m.) on Monday, January 22, 2024. Residents of the City of Monterey are encouraged to apply for these volunteer positions. Descriptions and requirements are noted on the application, available online at https://monterey.org/bcc. Mayor Williamson will review each application and conduct interviews of the candidates prior to presenting his recommendations to the City Council for appointment. For more information, email the City Clerk’s Office at cityclerk@monterey.org or call (831) 646-3935. Published: January 11, 2024 We Speak German… CARS! Mercedes, BMW, Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen and Mini-Cooper Using current modern technology our experienced staff will diagnose, maintain and repair your German car. Certified Monterey Bay Green Business 373.5355 249 DelaVina, Monterey www.ccrepairmonterey.com Copperfield Want to meet Copperfield? Please fill out our online adoption questionnaire. 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