What looks like a simple price war between Amazon, Target, and Walmart over a handful of bestsellers, writes attorney and bookseller William Petrocelli, is really a fight over what you get to read. At the prices these behemoths are charging, they’re selling those books below cost—i.e. predatory pricing, a means of driving other booksellers out of business. Whatever that means to their fellow chains, the first victims will be actual bookstores, and the next readers. These types of disruptions in how books are sold or distributed has a profound effect on what publishers decide to publish in the first place. Think of the book business as a giant funnel, in which millions of authors are trying to reach tens of millions of readers. The image is a telling one, because the literary life of America has to go through two very narrow choke points: publishing and bookselling. Both have become more restrictive in recent years—a few large publishing conglomerates and even more concentration at retail. The chain stores had been doing their best to squeeze out the independents over the last 20 years or so, and now they in turn are being squeezed by the mass merchandisers. So how does a new author break in? It’s never been easy. But buyers for independent stores tended to cancel out each other’s mistakes; no single error in judgment could sink a prospective literary career; when the system is dominated by a small handful of powerful buyers, their decision can make or break a book.