New York’s Sen. Schumer Calls on DOJ to Drop E-Book Suit

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In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, New York Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat, called on the Department of Justice to drop its lawsuit against Apple and five major publishers for allegedly colluding to raise prices on e-books.

“The suit could wipe out the publishing industry as we know it, making it much harder for young authors to get published,” wrote Schumer, and “ will restore Amazon to the dominant position atop the e-books market it occupied for years before competition arrived in the form of Apple. If that happens, consumers will be forced to accept whatever prices Amazon sets.”

If a single retailer “controls 90 percent of the market and can set rock-bottom prices, we will all suffer,” Schumer continued. “Choice is critical in any market, but that is particularly true in cultural markets like books. The prospect that a single firm would control access to books should give any reader pause.”

The DOJ suit is also unsettling from a broader perspective, he said. “As our economy transitions to digital platforms, we should be celebrating and supporting industries that find ways to adapt and grow. By developing a pricing model that made e-book sales work for them, publishers did just that.”

Echoing sentiments expressed by the American Booksellers Association and others, Schumer added, “I am concerned that the mere filing of this lawsuit has empowered monopolists and hurt innovators.”

Schumer called on the Obama administration to reassess its prosecution priorities. “Justice Department officials currently have comprehensive guidelines in place to determine when they should challenge mergers, but they have no such guidelines for non-merger investigations,” he said. “It’s time to come up with some. These new guidelines should take a broad, pragmatic view of the market as a whole. As the e-books case shows, this kind of perspective is sorely missing today.”

In response to the editorial, ABA CEO Oren Teicher said, “We applaud Sen. Schumer for taking a public stand against the Department of Justice suit and for clearly acknowledging its negative effects on the reading public and in maintaining a competitive book industry.

“As ABA has said many times, no court has ever found that monopolization benefits consumers. Sen. Schumer gives strong voice to the concerns expressed by hundreds of our members and others throughout the book industry. We only hope that DOJ and Judge Cote listen.”