Category Archives: Books and Government

Consumers and Publishers Beware…ABA & the DOJ v. Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart?

As if these three sellers don’t offer enough threat of mark-downs and discounts, now there’s suspicion of a Price War?

The American Booksellers Association issued a request for investigation to the Department of Justice yesterday, concerning the predatory price slashing that Wal-Mart, Amazon.com and Target have been battling over. Here are the essentials:

“[I]n the consumer and trade press this past week, Amazon.com, WalMart.com, and Target.com have engaged in a price war in the pre-sale of new hardcover bestsellers, including books from John Grisham, Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Sarah Palin, and James Patterson. These books typically retail for between $25 and $35. As of writing of this letter, all three competitors are selling these and other titles for between $8.98 and $9.00.” (for the full letter, click here).

As noted in the letter, books are a special kind of product. Their prices are printed right on the book by the publisher. Not to mention book units are already sold at a discount to the retailer.  This means retailers only have a limit to how much they can earn.

Why are these three retailing moguls doing this? From the looks of it, they’re fighting to claim as much market share as possible. Why worry about this? Because not only are smaller, less capable booksellers’ businesses threatened, but publishers need the diversity to remain in some control over how much of a discount they need to sell their products at.

This is definitely a story to keep an eye on.

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U.S. PATRIOT ACT: Kind of Like That Annoying Safety Patrol in Grade School

Not to offend everyone who was ever a Safety Patrol “officer” in grade school (sadly, I was one as well), but after reviewing this article on PW, and the federal act itself, I have to say I wouldn’t mind ripping the proverbial badge of the government’s chest and pouring a milk carton over it’s head.

If you aren’t aware, in section 215 of the Patriot Act, provides the right to “access to records and other items under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act”, including from libraries, bookstores, and other businesses where customer records are kept. If that’s not bad enough, they also enforce a “gag provision”, basically stating that if the FBI has demanded information or records, the establishment is not permitted to speak of it (even if the request is dropped in some cases).

While the book world is uniting for the common good (Captain Planet style) to get this reformed, it’s important to look at this from both sides. On the one hand, since 9/11 and the Iraq War, we’ve been pretty discombobulated about our government’s policies on hunting down and taking care of terrorists and “suspicious characters”. Most of this stems from our fear of being caught off-guard again. I know I don’t want to be part of the reason we let down our guard only to have another fatal attack take place.

BUT I’m also pretty sick about turning over all of my privacy, not to mention First Amendment rights for this thing. Isn’t that why we have the internet? Isn’t my voluntary distribution and divulging of personal records through blogs, tweets, Facebook updates and more enough for you people?

I’m not claiming we’ve become a case of Fahrenheit 451, but as a fairly liberal thinking bookworm, I definitely get the heeby-geebies when someone starts questioning the books I’m reading.

On that happy note: “‘Tis pleasant, sure, to see one’s name in print,”* until you notice the ‘Reward’ posted after it.

*Lord Byron

(If you want to find out more, here’s where I was looking: Reader Privacy, ALA, ACLU)

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