Authors United
P.O Box 4790
Santa Fe, NM 87502

August 14, 2015

The Hon. William J. Baer
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Assistant Attorney General Baer,

From the beginning of our nation, Americans have understood the central role that open and competitive markets play in promoting freedom of expression and protecting our democracy. The country's founders, Congress and the Supreme Court have repeatedly made it clear that a concentration of private power over any marketplace of information is incompatible with American ideals of liberty, free speech, and the unfettered flow of ideas.

Today a single company, Amazon, has gained unprecedented power over America's market for books. We are not experts in antitrust law, and this letter is not a legal brief. But we are authors with a deep, collective experience in this field, and we agree with the authorities in economics and law who have asserted that Amazon's dominant position makes it a monopoly as a seller of books and a monopsony as a buyer of books. According to published figures, this one corporation now controls the sale of:

• More than 75 percent of online sales of physical books.

• More than 65 percent of e-book sales.

• More than 40 percent of sales of new books.

• About 85 percent of ebook sales of self-published authors.

With its own traditional imprints and its near-total control of self-publishing, Amazon has also become the largest publisher and distributor of new books in the world.

In recent years, Amazon has used its dominance in ways that we believe harm the interests of America's readers, impoverish the book industry as a whole, damage the careers of (and generate fear among) many authors, and impede the free flow of ideas in our society.

The present inaction by regulators is not in keeping with the history of government response when a single company has come to dominate a venue for communication. In the 20th century, Congress repeatedly passed laws that prevented a concentration of ownership in vital informational markets, including newspapers, radio and television.

But the precedent for this thinking extends back to the First Amendment and in 19th Century law. In 1866, long before the creation of antitrust law, Congress passed the Telegraph Act, which blocked a private company from gaining monopoly control of this very first electronic medium of communication.

The courts have regularly found that existing antitrust laws can and should be used to protect information markets from private monopoly. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the 1994 Turner Broadcasting v. FCC case, articulated the reasoning. He wrote: "Assuring that the public has access to a multiplicity of information sources is a governmental purpose of the highest order, for it promotes values central to the First Amendment… The First Amendment's command that government not impede the freedom of speech does not disable the government from taking steps to ensure that private interests not restrict, through physical control of a critical pathway of communication, the free flow of information and ideas."

Americans are just as opposed as ever to seeing private interests gain control of any marketplace of information. In February this year, the FCC, responding to the strong consensus view of the American people, ruled that no private interest should be allowed to manipulate the flow of information across the Internet, and established rules for "net neutrality." Only a few months ago, your Division was reportedly among the regulators who opposed excessive consolidation of ownership in broadband Internet, which halted the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable. As recently as 1999, the FTC made clear that such principles also apply specifically to the book business, and blocked the purchase of Ingram Book Group, the country's largest wholesale book distributor, by Barnes & Noble, the country's largest retail bookstore.

For two centuries, America's book business was the freest, fairest, and most competitive in the world. More than a business, it was a marketplace of ideas, with publishers acting as venture capitalists, advancing funds to give authors the freedom to write books, and thereby hoping to make a profit. In this way the profit motive was put in service of a vital national interest and our fundamental rights. "The best test of truth," Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1919, "is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market." What Americans seek, Holmes said, is "free trade in ideas."

Over the years, Amazon has benefitted readers and authors in many ways. But no temporary price cut can compensate for the costs to free expression and the health of America's book industry that have resulted from Amazon's abuse of its dominance in the world of books. Accordingly, we respectfully request that the Antitrust Division investigate Amazon's power over the book market, and the ways in which that corporation exercises its power, bearing in mind the very special constitutional sensitivities that have historically been applied to any business that has established effective control of a medium of communication.


The undersigned authors:

Megan Abbott

Robert H. Abel

Devin Adair

Chimamanda Adichie

William M. Adler

Sandra Aistars

William Alexander

Sherman Alexie

Louise Allen-Jones

Jonathan Ames

Rudolfo Anaya

Roger Angle

Kelley Armstrong

Rilla Askew

Rick Atkinson

James David Audlin

Gillian Bagwell

Deirdre Bair

Mishell Baker

Evelyn Barish

Rebecca Barnhouse

Thomas A. Barron

John M. Barry

Thomas A. Bass

Douglas Bauer

Tricia Bauer

Erica Bauermeister

William Bayer

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Janis Bellow

Anne Bernays

Lauren Beukes

David Biale

George Bibel

Constance Bierner

Clara Bingham

Michael Bishop

Linda M. Bland

Cas Blomberg

Roy Blount Jr.

Paul Bogard

Johnny D. Boggs

Carl T. Bogus

Estate of Roberto Bolaño

Raymond Bonner

Betsy Connor Bowen

Jennifer Finney Boylan

Ben Bradlee Jr.

James Bradley

Mike Bradley

Kelly Braffet

Jess M. Brallier

Taylor Branch

Gary Braver

Marie Brennan

Deborah Brevoort

Courtney Angela Brkic

Pope Brock

Harriet Brown

Jennifer Brown

Lisa Brown

Cathy Marie Buchanan

Susan Buckley

William Buckley Jr.

Carolyn Burke

Benjamin Busch

Mel Byars

Ernest Bywater

Pat Cadigan

Chelsea Cain

Susan Cain

Wayne Caldwell

Philip Caputo

Peter Ames Carlin

Ron Carlson

Cynthia Carr

Jim Carrier

Betsy Carter

Carol Cassella

Ernest Cerino

Michael Chabon

Will Charpentier

Susan Cheever

Harriet Scott Chessman

Jaima Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier

Lee Child

Mark Childress

Kate Christensen

Breena Clarke

Jan Clausen

Andrew Clements

Rachel Cline

Mick Cochrane

William D. Cohan

Joel Cohen

Ann Patricia Coleman

Michael Collier

Dan Connell

Tom Connor

Martha Cooley

Artemis Cooper

Karen Coody Cooper

Douglas Corleone

Jane Cornelius

Bruce Coville

Lindsey Crittenden

Dave Cullen

M. Allen Cunningham

Robert Dallek

Katherine Dalsimer

Jack Dann

Saul David

Lindsey Davis

Angela Davis-Gardner

Melissa de la Cruz

Aya de Leon

Helene Gaillet de Neergaard

Barbara Delinsky

Nelson DeMille

William Deresiewicz

Joel Derfner

Edward Dolnick

Beverly Donofrio

James Donovan

David R. Dow

Andre Dubus III

Andy Duncan

Tom Dunkel

Susan Edmiston

Jennifer Egan

Martha Egan

Dave Eggers

Robert Eggleton

Kimberly Elkins

Joseph J. Ellis

Rebecca Emerick

Ken Emerson

Terry England

Hallie Ephron

Louise Erdrich

Pamela Erens

Mark Essig

Sir Harold Evans

Anne Fadiman

James Fallows

Elle Febbo

Brian Feinblum

Ellen Feldman

Robert Feldman

Joshua Ferris

Lucy Ferriss

Joseph Finder

Janet Fitch

Richard Flanagan

Paul Fleischman

William Flesch

Ronald Florence

Franklin Foer

Tom Folsom

Richard T. Ford

Amanda Foreman

Alison Ashley Formento

J.L. Forrest

Connie May Fowler

Ruth Francis

Judith Frank

Thaisa Frank

Laurie Frankel

Ron Franscell

Caroline Fraser

Pamela Freeman

Ru Freeman

Jim Frenkel

Thatcher Freund

Francis Fukuyama

Laura Furman

Amity Gaige

Nicole Galland

Jack Gantos

Nasario Garcia

Barbara Garson

Beatrix Gates

Stephanie Gearhart

Elizabeth George

Nina George

Denise Giardina

Estate of Allen Ginsberg

Kathie Giorgio

Malcolm Gladwell

Krystyna Poray Goddu

Francisco Goldman

Beverly Gologorsky

Arquimedes Gonzalez

Meryl Gordon

Bill Gottlieb

Philip Gourevitch

Heather Graham

Elizabeth Graver

George Dawes Green

Melissa Fay Greene

Lauren Groff

Michael Gross

Talia Gryphon

Melissa Guion

Phil Gulley

Beth Gutcheon

Donald Hall

Loretta Hall

Jane Hamilton

Cathi Hanauer

Elizabeth Hand

Daniel Handler a.k.a. Lemony Snicket

Sharon Hanna

Alyssa Harad

Ann Harleman

Ellen Francis Harris

C. C. Harrison

Carolyn Hart

JoeAnn Hart

Adrianne Harun

Todd Hasak-Lowy

Katherine B. Hauth

Roy Hayes

Lauren Henderson

Paul Hendrickson

Mark Henshaw

Rachel Herz

Carol Hill

Anne Hillerman

Hilary Hinzmann

Gail Hochman

Edward Hoornaert

Nalo Hopkinson

Shel Horowitz

Del Howison

Mary Hudson

Nancy Huston

Elisabeth Hyde

Lewis Hyde

James Hynes

Allan Ishac

Diane Jacobs

Linda Jaivin

Michael Jecks

Jay Jennings

Erika Johansen

Dennis Johnson

Fenton Johnson

Mary Johnson

Brian Jay Jones

Steve Jones

Sam Jordison

S. T. Joshi

Bonita Kale

Judy Karasik

Paul Karasik

Jesse Karp

Joe Kelly

Judith Kelman

Raymond E. Kemble

Joshua Kendall

Katrina Kenison

Kathy Saade Kenny

Diana Ketcham

Frances Kiernan

A.S. King

Dave King

Lily King

Stephen King

Stephen Kotowych

Mark Kramer

Jon Krampner

Bernie Krause

Michael Kurland

Dale M. Kushner

Drawk Kwast

Anne Landsman

Mara Lane

Ruth Ryan Langan

Joe Lansdale

Barbara Kent Lawrence

Lee Adair Lawrence

Ursula K. Le Guin

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

Cherie Lee

Con Lehane

Stina Leicht

Emily Leider

Gino Leineweber

Michael Lent

Anne Leonard

Christopher Leonard

John Lescroart

Michael Lesy

David D. Levine

Marc Levy

Katia Lief

Terr Light

Alan Lightman

Jane Lindskold

Kelly Link

Laura Lippman

Jonathan Littell

Aimee Liu

Michaele Lockhart

David Lubar

Jason Erik Lundberg

William Lychack

Barry Lyga

Jennifer Lyne

Barry Lynn

Larissa MacFarquhar

Elizabeth Macklin

Kathy MacMillan

Alexander Maksik

Katrina Maloney

Tim Manley

Ben Marcus

Meredith Maran

Regina Marler

Valerie Martin

Nina Marie Martinez

Pete Masterson

Judith Matloff

John Matteson

Alice Mattison

Claudia Mauro

Erin Lindsay McCabe

Donald McCaig

Lyn McConchie

Jack McDevitt

Michael McGarrity

Michael McGettigan

Mark McKenna

Marion Meade

Jodi Meadows

Mameve Medwed

Brian Meehl

Daniel Menaker

Susan Scarf Merrell

TM Merremont

Karla Linn Merrifield

Christopher Merrill

Corey Mesler

Claire Messud

Lisa Michaels

Deborah Michel

Jack Miles

Sue Miller

Tom Miller

RJ Mirabal

Stephen Mitchell

Seth Mnookin

Honor Moore

Susanna Moore

Theresa M. Moore

Phyllis S. Morgan

Tom Morrisey

Eleanor Morse

Elise Moser

Marcia Muller

Dona Munker

Manuel Munoz

Carol Muske-Dukes

Joan Myers

Laura Nadworny

V.S. Naipaul

Michelle Catherine Nelson

Victoria Nelson

Jay Neugeboren

Jonathan Nielson

Katharine Noel

Lisa Dale Norton

Rory Nugent

Sigrid Nunez

Carol O'Connell

Christine O'Connor

Brigid O'Farrell

Maryanne O'Hara

Joseph O'Neill

James S. O'Rourke

James O'Shea

Patricia O'Toole

Nancy Ohlin

Daniel Okrent

Sally Wendkos Olds

Helaine Olen

Mark Olshaker

Mary Pope Osborne

Nell Painter

Orhan Pamuk

Ann Pancake

Sara Paretsky

Ann Patchett

Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Greg Patent

Susan Patron

Richard North Patterson

Paula Paul

Andrea Peacock

Doug Peacock

Mickey Pearlman

Shelley Pearsall

Bill Petrocelli

Steven Petrow

Rodman Philbrick

Donald T. Phillips

Jayne Anne Phillips

Jorge Pinto

Lesley Poling-Kempes

Michael Pollan

Maximillian Potter

Douglas Preston

Richard Preston

Bill Pronzini

Alex Prud'homme

Tom Purdom

Anna Quindlen

Elizabeth Raby

Linda Radke

Karen Jeanne Radley

Michael Raleigh

Diane Ravitch

C. L. Rawlins

Christopher Reich

Paul Reid

Andrea Reusing

Gretchen Reynolds

Janet Rhodes

David Rich

Jerome Richard

David Rieff

Cynthia Riggs

David Roberts

Nora Roberts

Madeleine Eve Robins

Roxana Robinson

Gary D. Robson

Michaela Roessner-Herman

Barbara Rogan

Charlotte Rogan

Carl Rollyson

Ronald C. Rosbottom

Joel Rose

Benjamin Rosenbaum

Lucinda Rosenfeld

Elizabeth Rosner

Robert Rotenberg

Philip Roth

David Rothenberg

Penelope Rowlands

Elizabeth Royte

Sarah Ruden

Salman Rushdie

Richard Russo

Amie Ryan

Dana Sachs

Cynthia Saltzman

Lynda A. Sanchez

Luc Sante

George Saunders

Sam Savage

Joan Schenkar

Stacy Schiff

Cathleen Schine

Eva Schlesinger

Paul Schmid

David Schneider

Susan Beth Schneider

Lynne Sharon Schwartz

Edward Schwarzschild

Thomas L. Segerson

Taiye Selasi

Maria Semple

Bob Shacochis

Lawrence Shainberg

Bruce Shapiro

Daniel Sharfstein

Jeff Sharlet

Kathleen Sharp

David Shenk

Aaron Shepard

Jody Shields

Peggy Shinner

Michael Shnayerson

Jennie Shortridge

Anita Shreve

Hampton Sides

Peter Silver

Leora Skolkin-Smith

Gillian Slovo

Ali Smith

Marion Roach Smith

Mark Haskell Smith

Sharon Snyder

Amy Sohn

Andrew Solomon

Deborah Solomon

Sandi Sonnenfeld

William Souder

Scott Spencer

Bob Spitz

Nancy Star

Garth Stein

Thomas Steinbeck

Sabra Brown Steinsiek

Sydney Ladensohn Stern

T.J. Stiles

John E. Stith

Diana Stockton

Whitley Strieber

Elizabeth Strout

Nancy Rubin Stuart

Cheryl Sucher

John Sullivan

Ellen Sussman

Terese Svoboda

Jon M. Sweeney

Duane Swierczynski

Sam Swope

David Tallerman

Dominic Tarn

Nick Taylor

David Thurlo

Lynne Tillman

Amy Timberlake

Tolu Tolu

Sam Toperoff

Peter Trachtenberg

James Treadwell

William A. Turnage

Scott Turow

Cameron Tuttle

Gene Twaronite

Rachel Vail

Amanda Vaill

David Vann

Patrice Vecchione

John E Vernon

Karl von Wendt

Diana Wagman

Allison Wallace

Carol Wallace

Melanie Warner

Eric Weiner

Alan Weisman

Rebecca Wells

David Fairbank White

Dean Whitlock

Leon Wieseltier

T. Dennie Williams

Terry Tempest Williams

Thomas Williams

Robley Wilson

Terri Windling

Kit Wohl

Tobias Wolff

Monica Wood

Patricia Smith Wood

Summer Wood

Stuart Woods

Natasha Yim

Jane Yolen

Louisa Young

Robert Clark Young

Barry Yourgrau

Michele Zackheim

Cynthia Zarin

Michael Zeilik

Alex Zucker

Mitchell Zuckoff

Marlene Zuk

Kerry Zukus

Maritess Zurbano