WashingtonAll those conspiracy theorists out there who believe that Amazon holds an unfair bookopoly thanks to cozy relations with the Obama White House, prepare to be disappointed. A Washington Post report, entitled “Why Amazon is doubling down on lobbying,” and citing Jeff Bezos himself among sources, digs deep into Amazon’s lobbying spend, now reportedly $9.4 million in 2015. But ebooks and Amazon’s book trade dominance apparently are low down on the lobbying agenda – if there at all.

Said conspiracy theorists will also probably conclude that the article, in the Bezos-owned Post, is a sophisticated disinformation exercise. But it sure doesn’t read like one. They may quiver at the news that ex-Obama press secretary Jay Carney is now Amazon senior VP of Worldwide Corporate Affairs. But if Carney is busy on the phone to his ex-boss, apparently he’s more focused on Amazon support for “a national standard for collecting state sales tax for online purchases” than on fending off Authors Guild antitrust accusations. Amazon’s other priorities reportedly include provision of Amazon Web Services cloud infrastructure to U.S. government agencies – including the CIA – and Federal Aviation Administration policy on drones, which could make or break Amazon’s drone delivery plans.

Fortune and many others, including the relevant legal authorities, apparently long ago concluded that the Authors Guild, and those others who claim that Amazon has an armlock on U.S. book sales, would see failure to launch in any antitrust suit, for the simple reason that Amazon’s behavior doesn’t harm consumers. And according to the WaPo report, Amazon isn’t wasting any time or money in Washington trying to deflect such suits either.


  1. @Paul: Thanks for your informative post. I agree that e-book-related matters aren’t a high priority in Amazon’s lobbying efforts in D.C. But here’s one other angle to consider. I don’t know how much Amazon is doing as an individual company, but it is part of a coalition working against efforts to make e-books more accessible in areas such as TTS. Debate exists over whether the FCC has the powers to achieve such goals. Maybe it doesn’t. But if nothing else, the FCC and policymakers elsewhere should be calling for these reforms. Very possibly the coalition is one reason this has not happened, and for all we know, Amazon as an individual company could be a factor behind the scenes.

    • @John Aga: I was thinking of the E-book Manufacturers Coalition. It’s discouraged the FCC from imposing rules that would have made E Ink Kindles and other devices more accessible in various ways. Amazon definitely has been a member (https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-14-95A1_Rcd.pdf). Here, we’re talking about the basic capabilities of E Ink e-reader to do TTS, etc. That’s a different issue from blocking of TTS for individual books.

      • Yes, it discouraged them from requiring it for the sake of using Internet communication services. As that was the only reason the FCC could have required it in the first place, and it doesn’t make sense to require a device that uses Internet communication services as badly as an e-ink Kindle does to implement it for the purpose when that’s not what most people use it for.

        We live in a world where there are now many, many ways differently-able folks can both use the Internet and read e-books. There’s no need to require e-ink Kindles to support it when there are other (and even cheaper) devices that can do the same things. There’s no need to force e-readers to add extra expense and complication for the sake of doing something most people don’t even use them for anyway.

        • @Chris: The line between e-readers and tablets will keep blurring and I would have welcomed an FCC decision that recognized that even now the Kindle could be used as a comm device, however imperfectly. As for the cost of TTS, it’s less than you’d think. Remember, the Kindle 2 and the Kindle Keyboard and others had it. I applaud Amazon’s inclusion of TTS in the $50 tablet, but for some people, LCDs and E Ink devices are entirely different experiences. Not to mention the lighter weight and longer battery life of the E Ink machines.

          Hey, you’re entitled. At least folks know that we lack a “company line” on this issue. My own hope is that better, clearer, more inclusive accessibility laws can happen. Meanwhile it’s great to see some progress from Amazon on the anorexic Helvetica issue. The rollback is the right thing to do. And it’s smart, too, if Amazon itself doesn’t want legislative action.