March 11, 2013

Publishers fighting Amazon over .book domain


Publishers Weekly reported on its website last week that American publishers are up in arms over Amazon’s intention to take over the .book domain for its exclusive use. This comes in the heels of a plan put forth by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to offer up “closed generic top-level domain applications” (gTLDs) that would be available only to the owner of that domain.

What does all this mean, exactly? I’ll be honest, I had to read over the acronyms and explanations a few times myself. Essentially, ICANN is allowing people, businesses, and governments to apply for domain registries — including .book, as well as others like .blog, .art, and .shop — by completing an application in which they “demonstrate the operational, technical and financial capability to run a registry and comply with additional specific requirements,” according to the ICANN website. Nine companies have applied for access to the .book domain, including Amazon, DotBook, and R.R. Bowker (although, as GalleyCat points out in its article points out in its article about controversy, the latter did not apply for “closed generic” control). If the online retailer is successful in its bid, the domain would become “a unique and dedicated platform for Amazon,” as they explain in their own application.

In response to Amazon’s bid, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) submitted a letter of protest to ICANN, arguing that Amazon’s goal of exclusive control over the .book domain “would not be in the public interest.” The letter, written by AAP counsel Allan Adler, also lays out an argument for keeping the domain accessible to other people or companies that would find it valuable (including a fantastic legalese explanation of what a book is, in case you didn’t know:

The traditional primary meaning of “book” is a literary composition that is published in a written or printed form consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers. Consequently, it is reasonable to expect that “.book” domains will be sought by authors, publishers, sellers, libraries, literary agents, educators, editors, collectors, illustrators, photographers, printers, binders, archives, clubs, bibliophiles and others—for a myriad of different genres and related matters—in nations throughout the world. In addition, “.book” domains may widely surface in connection with many secondary or idiomatic uses of the word “book”—for example, as a noun referencing financial accounts, records of achievement, or wagers, or as a verb referencing vacation and travel arrangements, entertainment reservations, or even charges of criminal conduct.

But these widespread uses will not occur if a “.book” registry application that was filed by Amazon EU S.a r.l, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the global online retailer, Inc. is granted.

The AAP is urging ICANN not to accept applications from Amazon or other companies for control of the .book registry “without an affirmative objective showing by the applicant” that their ownership of that domain would serve the public interest.


Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.