PubWeekly “Clarification” On ABA Boycott of Amazon: Anti-Trust Concern Is Reason For Deleting Comments

Yesterday, Publisher’s Weekly issued a clarification that looks designed to get the American Booksellers off the anti-trust hook with their much-discussed (Indie Booksellers Tell Indie Authors To Go To Hell) Amazon book boycott (ABA’s IndieCommerce Site Dropping Amazon Publishing Titles) .

It also appears to show why PW deleted numerous comments on the subject.

The PW Clarification said the site had changed the original article, “at the request of IndieCommerce director Matt Supko, who said that the policy change was made by IndieCommerce personnel. Because the ABA is a nonprofit, it can’t tell its members to carry or not carry a book or books.”

This is certainly a positioning to get ABA off the anti-trust hook.

It’s clear from the statement why Publisher’s Weekly deleted all the original comments on the article, especially those dealing with ABA’s anti-trust position.


But no matter how willing Supko is willing to fall on his sword for the ABA, the legal and practical effects of his statement don’t hold water.

The ABA is a non-profit, its board (elected by members) has responsibility for the organization’s actions. That responsibility cannot be denied even for a subsidiary since that, ultimately, reports to ABA.

Thus: ABA members delegate organizational responsibility to -> ABA Board, responsible for -> ABA policy and actions which has responsibility for setting direction for ->IndieCommerce.

Even beyond direct boardroom resolutions, the ABA board in both formal and informal communication with its employees and subsidiaries sets the tone for their actions and statements and must accept the responsibility for them.


The IndieCommerce statement on this seems to try and avoid responsibility for restraint of trade with this paragraph in their Feb. 9 announcement of the Amazon boycott:

“All retailers using the IndieCommerce platform are free to stock any published books from any publisher in their stores and/or to fulfill any customer orders through another source. This policy change in no way affects that ability. Bookstores using IndieCommerce have the option of adding any title to their individual store’s online database and/or fulfilling orders through other means.”

While this seems even-handed on the surface, what it means is that each book store will be required to manually input each and every banned Amazon book into its database. Given

  • the short staffing at many indie bookstores,
  • the fact that most indie booksellers are more into books than computers, and
  • the huge numbers of new books available from Amazon

This amounts to a total boycott of Amazon and its indie authors.

The ban will not affect Amazon in any substantial way. It will, however, negatively impact the ability of indie authors to make a living. And like it or not, each author is a small business.

Thus, the IndieCommerce decision does what the ABA accuses Amazon of doing: it raises barriers designed to restrict intra- and interstate commerce.




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