Christian retailers, long besieged by the lower prices available through big-box stores and online retailers, have asked the Department of Justice to investigate what they call "illegal, predatory pricing" by Amazon.com, Target and Wal-Mart.

The CBA, the umbrella group for the Christian retail industry, is especially worried about pre-sales of new books by popular authors. In a Dec. 1 letter to federal officials, the group cited Stephen King's new "Under the Dome," which typically retails for as much as $35, costs store owners $17.50 but was sold for between $8.98 and $9 by the three retailers.

"Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, and Target are using predatory pricing practices in what appears to be an attempt to control the market for hardcover best-sellers," the CBA board of directors wrote in the letter to the Justice Department's Antitrust Division.

Eric Grimm, business development manager at CBA (formerly known as the Christian Booksellers Association), said Christian retailers have long been concerned about competitors' pricing strategies, and called the letter a "pre-emptive" action before the competition for Christian books grows even more challenging.

"What we want to do is establish that this is an unfair practice so that when the next big blockbuster comes out of a Christian book that they won't do the same thing," he said.

The larger retailers, for their part, say they're just trying to give the customers the best deal they can.

"I think it's worth noting that there is no investigation," said Greg Rossiter, a spokesman for Wal-Mart. "We're serving our customers and, in terms of any legal concerns, we also work to follow applicable laws."

Added Target spokeswoman Leah Guimond: "Target is firmly committed to respecting all ...

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