Glaister: 'Government should act on Amazon'

The Book People chief executive Seni Glaister has called on the government to intervene in Amazon's dominance of the e-book market.

In a rousing keynote at The Bookseller's FutureBook Conference this morning (21st November), Glaister said she respected Amazon for building the e-book market but its monopoly could not continue.

"Amazon is justified in thinking it owns the e-book market, they created it," she said. "But as a reader, as a consumer and as a parent, this dominant force makes me extremely nervous. Amazon is now dominant to the point it is now unassailable."

She said industry leaders had done their best to step in and help to shift the power.  However, "without significant government intervention, it is impossible to compete", she said. "Without in-app purchasing, it is impossible for competition to flourish."

The Book People had felt a duty to be in the e-books market, but it was 'impossible" to do whilst contending with Amazon's locked-in system, Glaister said. "We must convince the government to intervene and remove some barriers to competition. Does it matter there are only one or two e-book players? Yes it does. If we do not try to intervene and change then we will find ourselves with only one player. That would be a disastrous and sad ending."

Glaister also said that with greater competition e-books would find their "natural price" in the market, something that has been "denied" to them so far.

The TBP c.e.o. also repeated a claim she has previously made in The Bookseller, that The Book People might not be "bigger" but they could be "better" than Amazon, by working with publishers to provide insights and information on customers reading habits—which included why customers did not decide to buy a book as well as why they did.

"We can be better than Amazon in curation and marketing," Glaister said. "I personally hate the idea that I am defined by my past purchases, which limits my world." She said TBP's model was based on intelligent recommendations and personal service.

Glaister also spoke passionately about improving literacy in the UK and said that children should not read digitally until they learn to read using a physical book first. "The  country has a shocking literacy rate, we are ranked 25th in the world," Glaister said. "We should make it our duty that all children access books until we improve literacy."

She concluded: "Amazon may call their e-reader the Kindle but it is publishers, authors, teachers and booksellers who make sure we keep as many fires burning as possible."

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