Amazon and the Independent Bookseller: A New Look at Market Definition?

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When one thinks of technological advances that have forced antitrust lawyers to think about market definition differently, Amazon’s rise to power is perhaps the most obvious example. For years, the behemoth company and its business practices have been the subject of scrutiny by the FTC, private litigants, legal scholars, and even Elizabeth Warren, with the publication of her plan last year to make Amazon a “platform utility.” Indeed, it may seem as if nothing new or different could be written about Amazon and the definitions of the markets it occupies, but these are new and different times. In just two months, the global pandemic has altered, perhaps forever, the way in which United States consumers shop and purchase goods, necessitating a fresh look at market definition as well.

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While there has been a great deal of antitrust scrutiny on Amazon’s business practices in the last couple of years, the focus has not been on books. Indeed, it appears that since the Apple e-books case, which, among other things, served to shore up Amazon’s dominance in the market for electronic books, the antitrust discussion about Amazon has largely been about other markets or practices. For instance, Amazon’s entry into the grocery market and its merger with Whole Foods garnered a great deal of attention. Amazon’s relationship with third-party retail sellers on its platform is now the subject of a class action and an antitrust investigation by the EU. And the growing popularity of Amazon Prime has forced competing businesses to think of new and creative ways to deal with shipping costs and consumer loyalty. While all of these issues deserve the attention they are getting, Amazon started with books, and it is to that market that this piece turns.

Please see full Publication below for more information.

Originally published in American Antitrust Institute Online Symposium - June 24, 2020.

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