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Amazon draws fire with bid to own book-themed domains

By Amy Martinez

The Seattle Times

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 06:48 p.m. HST, Mar 11, 2013



The book world is crying foul over Amazon.com’s quest to control an array of new domain names.

The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers argue that allowing Amazon to own such Web addresses as “.book,” “.author,” and “.read” would crush competition.

Troubled chain Barnes & Noble also opposes Amazon’s request, citing the Internet giant’s firm grip on the industry. New York-based Barnes & Noble says Amazon controls about 60 percent of the e-book market and 25 percent of the physical-book market.

Granting Amazon exclusive use of the addresses, known as top-level domain names, “would stifle competition in the bookselling and publishing industries, which are critical to the future of copyrighted expression in the United States,” the chain said in a letter to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

ICANN, a nonprofit overseeing Web domain names, last year began a process to expand the Internet’s addressing system well beyond the now common “.com” or “.edu”. It received about 1,930 proposals for 1,400 different suffixes, with Google, Microsoft and Apple also submitting applications.

Seattle-based Amazon.com Inc. is seeking dozens of new top-level domains, including “.app,” “.joy” and “.kindle,” according to ICANN’s website. (In all, 13 organizations are vying for “.app”, making it the most-requested suffix, followed by “.home” and “.inc”.)

Amazon, which did not return an email seeking comment Monday, gave no details about its plans for the new names. The company’s application for “.book” said only that it would “provide a unique and dedicated platform for Amazon while simultaneously protecting the integrity of its brand and reputation,” as well as its intellectual-property rights.

Authors Guild President Scott Turow wrote to ICANN urging it not to sell the exclusive domain rights for generic book-industry terms. The concern is Amazon would buy the names for its own use and not provide access to other book sellers.

“Placing such generic domains in private hands is plainly anticompetitive, allowing already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power,” Turow said in his letter. “The potential for abuse seems limitless.”

ICANN spokeswoman Michele Jourdan declined to comment on Amazon’s application. She said the organization will begin releasing initial results of its evaluations next week but will not be finished until the end of August.

In the past few years, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have raised growing concerns about Amazon’s dominance online, warning that the company’s widespread discounting strategy undercuts competition and devalues books.






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