Some of your favorite superheroes might be facing one of their biggest foes yet: online bookselling behemoth Amazon.
The Web retailer has thrown its considerable weight behind a deal that holds fictional crime busters captive inside Amazon's services.
Amazon brokered a deal with DC Comics -- the holder of titles featuring the likes of Batman, Superman and the Watchmen -- to retain the exclusive e-book-selling rights to 100 titles from its high-profile catalog.
The move coincides with the release of Amazon's Kindle Fire, a $199 touch-screen tablet computer.
The exclusive deal miffed Barnes & Noble, Amazon's chief e-book competitor, which responded by pulling DC Comics from the shelves in its brick-and-mortar stores. Barnes & Noble said its policy is that it doesn't carry any book-on-paper if it can't also sell a digital version.
Books-A-Million, the nation's No. 3 book retailer, followed suit. Company president Terry Finley said the chain "will not promote titles in our stores' showrooms if publishers choose to pursue these exclusive arrangements that create an uneven playing field in the marketplace."
The result has been an intense staring match of sorts as Amazon looks to control not only how we consume content but also what content is available. Publishers often have little choice but to play along. Amazon has the numbers: millions of Kindle users who can purchase e-books only from Amazon. (A library lending program started recently for Kindle users and Amazon Prime customers.)
Amazon sells its popular line of Kindle e-readers -- refreshed just in time for the all-important holiday shopping season -- at a loss. It does that to lock customers into consuming content on the devices and then charging them for e-books and for streaming movies, TV shows and music.
In this way, Amazon is taking its cue from Apple, which has long sought to control content as well as the method for delivering it.
Apple and Amazon take a cut -- often as high as 30 percent -- from many of the e-book, movie, music and app purchases through their specific stores. That can result in considerable profits.
Amazon also has started to court authors directly, cutting out publishers entirely and ensuring that more content is available only on the Kindle.
In the battle of platforms, many customers will ultimately be left out as each side looks to garner exclusive content. Prices won't be falling for content that only a couple of companies control. Many e-books already are more expensive than paperback versions of the same book.