I read a new word today in Joe Konrath’s blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. You see, he’s an independent author, and he shared some of his thoughts about the current ‘situation’ between Amazon and Hachette Book Group in an entry named Fisking Charlie Stross: More on Hachette/Amazon. I found this short and interesting paragraph in this entry:

People have a choice on where to buy books. Amazon being the biggest bookseller on the planet doesn’t make them a monopoly or monopsony. If readers demand Hachette books, Amazon has not prevented them from being sold. There are thousands of other retailers who sell Hachette titles.

My first thought was that monopsony was a typo and he surely meant monopoly. Then again, since monopoly appears two words earlier in the same sentence, joined to monopsony with the conjunction ‘or,’ it wasn’t a typo. Not of monopoly anyway.

So I went off to the dictionary!

Let me start with the word you know:

monopoly 1 Exclusive possession or control of the trade in a commodity , service , etc.; the condition of having no competitor in one’s trade or business ; Law a situation in which one supplier or producer controls more than a specified fraction of the market. m16.

And now, in a sense, the opposite:

monopsony Economics. A situation in which there is a sole or predominant consumer for a particular product. m20.

Neat, huh? The etymologies are cool, as well. Monopoly is from the Greek mono (one), and pōlein (sell) while monopsony is from the Greek mono (one) and opsōnein (buy provisions). I also find it interesting that monopoly is from the middle of the 16th century while monopsony is from the middle of the 20th century. Is that progress?

Definitions from the electronic Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.