If there’s one job connected to the publishing industry that’s not only safe but booming right now, it’s being a lawyer for Amazon. Last week, as you will probably be aware, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) brought a large antitrust suit against Amazon. The central allegation is that Amazon has a “set of interlocking anticompetitive and unfair strategies” which it uses to maintain a monopoly.
Among these strategies is the delightfully named “Project Nessie”. This is apparently an algorithm, though the lawsuit’s public references include so many redactions it’s impossible to tell what the algorithm does. It does confirm Amazon’s love of a good cryptic name (its sludge process was famously known internally as The Iliad, a reference to how long it took to unsubscribe from Prime).
Fear of getting into hot water keeps me from speculating on the redacted detail. But a lot of the issues under consideration will be ones that affect us, such as Amazon’s promotion of its own products, and related questions around the buy button. What’s really interesting is that the whole complaint, which isn’t that far short of 200 pages, doesn’t actually mention publishing. Mark Williams, who has a typically salty as well as insightful take, comments:
“It’s a sad truth that the latest Federal Trade Commission lawsuit against Amazon doesn’t even mention the publishing industry, once the cornerstone of the Jeff Bezos empire.”
Publishing might not get a mention, but we will all be impacted by the continued antitrust interest in Amazon’s practices.
And some interesting events…
I wanted to take this chance to share two events that might be of interest to ALLi members. Litfest 2023 is underway as this goes to press. But it’s still not too late to enjoy several more days, with online livestreaming – and catch up for those and the sessions you might have missed. At the risk of stirring controversy, one of the things that drew my attention is the showcasing of work that was created using ChatGPT. Interesting to see both the work and the reaction!
Meanwhile Out On The Page is putting on a series of 6 seminars on queer literature. The aim is “to facilitate and stimulate a global conversation around literature and queer literary production.”