Congress launches digital markets competition inquiry as US e-book lending row continues

Congress launches digital markets competition inquiry as US e-book lending row continues

Congress has launched an inquiry into digital markets competitions as the row over e-book lending to libraries in the United States continues. 

The American Library Association (ALA) says current practices by content publishers and distributors in digital markets limit libraries’ ability to deliver core services, according to its latest report

The report, submitted in response to an inquiry from the U S House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law, "underscores practices by companies like Amazon and Macmillan Publishers that threaten Americans’ right to read what and how they choose", said the ALA. 

Amazon's e-book content is not available to libraries and the inquiry comes amid growing backlash to Macmillan's plans to put a two-month embargo on new release e-books in public libraries from 1st November. The ALA is campaigning against the proposal and its online petition has garnered nearly 150,000 signatures. 

“By outright denying or delaying library access to digital content, dominant actors in digital markets endanger America’s competitiveness and our nation’s cultural heritage,” said ALA President Wanda Brown. “Everyone who reads, writes, performs or sells creative works is harmed when libraries are unable to purchase and deliver content for all in our communities.”

“ALA does not take this issue lightly,” said Alan Inouye, ALA senior director of public policy and government relations. “When Amazon – the world’s fifth largest publisher of e-books – refuses to sell to libraries, or when a Big 5 publisher like Macmillan places an eight-week embargo on e-book sales to America’s libraries, we believe it is time to take legislative action.”

The inquiry comes four months after the House Judiciary Committee launched an investigation into digital market competition.  Chairman Jerrold Nadler said there was "growing evidence that a handful of gatekeepers have come to capture control over key arteries of online commerce, content, and communications."

According to Publishers Weekly, "similar investigations are underway in some state legislatures as well."

The Bookseller has contacted Amazon and Macmillan for comment.