Amazon’s stranglehold over the ebook market has led to strong-arm practices.

Initially, the online seller’s attempts to control (i.e., limit) sales of the publisher Hachette was seen as a problem for Hachette (and its writers) alone. Gradually, however, other authors began to wonder what would prevent Amazon from exercising its influence in more and more offensive ways, leading them consider whether the “Justice Department [ought] to investigate Amazon for illegal monopoly tactics.”

An article from the New York Times asks:  “What are the rights and responsibilities of a company that sells half the books in America and controls the dominant e-book platform?”

By choosing to place certain books (on certain subjects) on sale, or to ship more quickly, Amazon is able to privilege some political views over others. Of course, merchants can always influence or express political views through their sales and product lines. The difference is that Amazon has a vast influence on book selling, particularly ebook selling. In Ursula k. LeGuin words: “Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors what they can write, to readers what they can buy. This is more than unjustifiable, it is intolerable.”

The Times article in particular describes the coming together of a diverse group of authors, some amongst the most well-known in American letters, to form Authors United. A letter signed by the assembled group and sent to Amazon’s Board of Director’s  protested Amazon’s sanctioning of Hachette authors’ books, stating:  “[t]hese sanctions included refusing preorders, delaying shipping, reducing discounting, and using pop-up windows to cover authors’ pages and redirect buyers to non-Hachette books,” acts which led to reduced sales by at least 50, and as much as 90 percent. The letter asks, “Do you as an Amazon director approve of this policy of sanctioning books?”