For decades and probably centuries, businesses have lobbied gubmnts to be free from the vagaries and pressures of competition. A very telling example of this incentive was the Robinson-Patman Act of 1936 in the US which essentially limited the scope for price competition with the goal of protecting neighbourhood stores from inroads being made by chain stores and supermarkets (most of which no longer exist due to changing economic conditions and new forms of competition).
As internet shopping, especially for music and ebooks, has blossomed, once again the former industry giants are concerned about losing out to new business models.... in this case, such firms as Apple and Amazon.
But this article in the NYTimes cogently makes the point that what is important is competition, no matter who provides it. Schumpeterian creative destruction will lead to some businesses failing as others emerge. But the new ones will, in general, be successful only if they offer customers a better combination of products, prices, and service. What needs protection is the competitive process, not the incumbent firms in an industry.
Just as important as ensuring that platforms cannot abuse their dominance is to ensure that the companies that make the products that flow on these platforms — book publishers, say — do not use anticompetitive tactics to benefit one platform at the expense of others. This is the kind of competition that the Justice Department’s civil suit against Apple and the book publishers is meant to protect.
Admittedly, the Justice Department’s case may be bad news for the established book industry. Amazon and other online competitors have squeezed Borders out of business. It is only a matter of time before cheap e-books put an end to hardcover tomes selling for $25. And with Amazon pushing into publishing itself, some publishers could become victims as well.
But what really matters to society is what the case means for the production and consumption of books. That might not be so dreadful.
For sure, if brick-and-mortar bookstores disappear, browsing will die with them. But writers and publishers will have plenty of other ways — think Amazon, Facebook or Google — of letting readers know about their books. [emphasis added]