The Future of the Ebook

Let’s Give Amazon the .Book Domain, That’ll End Well

”Who, us?” —Amazon, looking innocent.
Old school, meet new school. (flickr.com/friarsbalsam)

Old school, meet new school. (flickr.com/friarsbalsam)

Hey, you know what sounds like a great idea? Giving the juggernaut Amazon any more of a stranglehold on the book business. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Author’s Guild, the Association of American Publishers and those poor bastards at Barnes & Noble are all raising hue and cry in opposition to Amazon’s attempt to stake out such generic top-level domains as “.book” and “.read,” saying it’s a threat to competition.

“The potential for abuse seems limitless,” wrote Authors Guild president Scott Turow in a letter to ICANN. He apparently restrained himself from adding “for fuck’s sake, guys.”

Amazon’s response: Basically, “Who, little old us?” In a letter to ICANN, the company’s senior counsel dismissed the supposed market-moving power of top-level domains:

“Why should a company be able to own ‘widget.com’ and not ‘.widget’?” she wrote. “There is no evidence that past ‘closed’ domains have led to any market power.”

Right … then why bother applying for them? No one knows, which is the kind of thing that fosters outright paranoia in the publishing business. The company’s applications for the domain were about as vague as they could be without filing blank sheets of paper:

 Its application for “.app,” for example, says that becoming a registry for the domain name will “provide a unique and dedicated platform for Amazon while simultaneously protecting the integrity of its brand and reputation” and also offer “a stable and secure foundation for online communication and interaction.”

The jury’s still out on whether these top-level domains will matter worth a damn, anyway. You can go to Amazon.com and order basically anything; who wants to fool with a thousand new sites on some new domain?

In fact, we suspect these objections are less about antitrust worries than sheer rage at the idea Amazon could own “.book,” which is way too close to the concept of “book” for anyone’s comfort.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com