A Case for Openness – Book Publishing and the Role of Amazon

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The presence of Amazon is ubiquitous, especially in the online bookstore and e-book market. The introduction of the “Kindle” further cemented Amazon’s dominant position and business model in the market, having negative implications for authors, publishers and consumers. Publishers have less control over setting the price to have access to Amazon’s customer base. This will affect the authors’ remuneration and attribution. On the other hand, Kindle users are locked-in consumers, limited to Amazon’s e-book offering. This not only affects consumer choice but also reinforces Amazon’s market power due to the significant network effects. The European Commission attempted to increase competition in the e-book market by banning most-favourite-nation clauses, but this has seemingly failed. This article advocates for enforcing the Kindle’s interoperability with the e-book formats of other e-book providers. The proposed approach is beneficial for publishers as well as consumers. It safeguards copyright aims while alleviating the contractual constraints imposed by Amazon. Furthermore, consumers would benefit from broader flexibility when using their Kindle, allowing them to store and read e-books from the provider of their choice.