The American Booksellers Association has accused Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target of illegal predatory pricing, and has asked the Department of Justice to investigate.
The ABA believes that the recent price war between the three is harming both the publishing industry and consumers.
The price war has seen hard-cover bestsellers such as John Grisham's latest selling for under $9.
"News reports suggest that publishers are not offering special terms to these big box retailers, and that the retailers are, in fact, taking orders for these books at prices far below cost. (In the case of Mr. King's book, these retailers are losing as much as $8.50 on each unit sold.)," says the ABA Board of Directors in its letter to the DoJ.
"We believe that Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, and Target are using these predatory pricing practices to attempt to win control of the market for hardcover bestsellers."
Amazon started it, according to the ABA, by pricing digital editions of new hardcover books at below cost, and releasing them simultaneously with much higher-priced print editions. "We believe the loss-leader pricing of digital content also bears scrutiny," says the ABA.