US web-based retail pioneer Amazon has announced that it wants to acquire the British book seller The Book Depository for an undisclosed - but likely healthy - sum. Unfortunately for both parties, that's raised some eyebrows at the Office of Fair Trading.
The Book Depository is a rapidly growing site at a time when traditional dead-tree publishing is supposedly stagnating or shrinking. Last year, the site made a healthy profit of £2.3 million while The Guardian claims that its turnover doubled in 2010 to £120 million.
It's a site with many fans, and there's a certain amount of concern that Amazon will simply absorb the site into its own without keeping any of what has made The Book Depository a popular place to shop, while pushing rival companies out of the market by means of incredible purchasing power.
The company has tried to allay these fears in a terse note on its website, which reads: "The Book Depository and Amazon are aligned in wanting to ensure the best possible experience for customers. Working with Amazon we will look to continue to increase our vast selection of great titles and provide even better customer experience."
That note isn't enough to quell the concerns of the Office of Fair Trading, however. Concerned that Amazon might be moving into a monopolistic position in the UK bookselling market as a result of the purchase, the OFT has announced that it is beginning an investigation into the purchase.
While the OFT hasn't yet responded to our queries regarding the investigation, a comment made by a spokesperson to Wired indicates that it will be seeking comments from interested parties until the 18th of July, and that a decision of whether a full investigation - or a referral to the Competitions Commission, which deals with potentially monopolistic practices - is warranted.
Neither The Book Depository nor Amazon has responded to our request for a statement on the matter, but both are expected to cooperate fully with the OFT in the hopes of securing the deal without modification.