Booksellers Meet With Texas Attorney General Regarding Agency Model

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On November 4, three Texas-based independent booksellers met with the antitrust division of the state Attorney General’s office, in Austin, Texas, to discuss the digital content agency model and the dangers posed by below-cost pricing. Booksellers participating in the meeting were ABA Board member Steve Bercu of BookPeople in Austin, Valerie Koehler of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, and Claudia Maceo Sharp of The Twig Book Shop in San Antonio.

“The meeting was an excellent opportunity for us to share the ABA viewpoint with several members of the Attorney General’s antitrust division and their investigators,” said Bercu of the 90-minute meeting. “The tenor of their questions led me to believe that they were interested in gathering information and making a real effort to inform themselves.”

The booksellers stressed to the antitrust division their support for the agency model for the sale of digital content because it prevents below-cost pricing and loss-leader marketing by online superstores seeking to acquire market share and to concentrate power. They also shared their belief that the agency model allows for a wide diversity of retailers in the marketplace and that it benefits consumers because it ensures the continued distribution of books by small, independent businesses with a wide variety of viewpoints.

“The prevailing impression was that of information gathering,” Sharp toldBTW. “We discussed the theory behind the agency model, including the predicted impact on consumers.”

“I think we were able to explain the position of Main Street retailers to the attorneys,” said Koehler. “My hope is that they can look at this situation from all sides.”

The booksellers’ visit followed up on a September 29 letter ABA CEO Oren Teicher sent to Attorney General Greg Abbott outlining ABA’s strong support of the agency model. The letter followed reports that Abbott’s office was investigating e-book agreements.