Amazon fights Google book deal

It warns of less competition

The Associated PressSeptember 3, 2009 

— Online bookseller Amazon.com is warning a federal judge that Google Inc., the Internet search leader, will be able to gouge consumers and stifle competition if it wins court approval to add millions more titles to its already vast digital library.

The harsh critique of Google's 10-month-old settlement with U.S. authors and publishers emerged this week in a 41-page brief that Amazon filed in an attempt to persuade U.S. District Judge Denny Chin to block the agreement from taking effect.

A flurry of filings opposing and supporting the class-action settlement is expected Friday, the deadline for most briefs in the case. At least two other Google rivals, Microsoft and Yahoo, are expected to weigh in with their opposition by then.

Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon are all part of the Open Book Alliance, a group formed last month to rally opposition to the Google book settlement. Other participants include the Internet Archive, the New York Library Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.

The U.S. Justice Department, which is taking a look at Google's book deal, has until Sept. 18 to share its thoughts on the case. That filing may provide a better indication whether Justice thinks Google's deal with authors and publishers would violate U.S. laws set up to prevent predatory pricing and promote competition.

Amazon's brief brands the provisions of Google's settlement as "a high-tech form of the backroom agreements that are the stuff of antitrust nightmares."

Opposition has been mounting to Google's plans to create a registry that will sell digital copies of copyright-protected books on behalf of U.S. authors and publishers unless they withdraw from a class-action settlement.

Google is downplaying the objections of Amazon, as well as the anticipated protests from Microsoft and Yahoo, as potshots from frightened rivals.

"The Google books settlement is injecting more competition into the digital books space, so it's understandable why our competitors might fight hard to prevent more competition," Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker said.

Google would turn over most of the revenue from its digital book sales to the authors and publishers, just one of the many benefits that the Mountain View-based company is touting. What's more important, Google contends, is that millions of out-of-print books and other works collecting dust on library shelves would be more accessible if they are stored in its digital library.

More than 10 million books have already been scanned into Google's electronic index since 2004.

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