Amazon BookSurge Anti-Trust Lawsuit Can Proceed

Last year, Amazon decreed that it would direct-sell no print-on-demand books that weren’t printed by its POD subsidiary, BookSurge.

The change in policy sent small publishers and POD self-publishing services, many of which used rival digital printer Lightning Source, into a frenzy of alarm. In order to sell their books on Amazon, they’d either have to enter into parallel relationships with BookSurge, or use Amazon’s Advantage program. Storms of protest ensued. Amazon refused to budge.

Most publishers and publishing services eventually came to an agreement with Amazon. Not self-publishing service BookLocker, however. In May 2008, its owners, Angela and Richard Hoy, filed a class action antitrust lawsuit against Amazon, alleging violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

In July 2008, Amazon filed a motion to dismiss. But yesterday (August 26, 2009) Chief U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr. denied that motion. This means that the BookLocker suit is free to proceed.

Richard Hoy provides details at the lawsuit website. “Among other steps,” he says, “we anticipate beginning discovery (where we are able to request documents from Amazon) shortly. Although there is still a long way to go, surviving the motion to dismiss is an important first step.”

Judge Woodcock’s ruling can be seen here.

Publishers Weekly has coverage.


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  2. I read the decision, though I sure didn't understand all the case citations and legalese. But it seems to me that distributors such as Amazon take an inordinate share of the profit off any transaction. The author and publisher apparently are expected to be happy with the leftovers, while monopolies figure out newer and more inventive ways to grab an ever higher percentage.

    I celebrate the fact that the lawsuit will be heard out, in all its twists and turns. Hope it doesn't take years to get a final decision.

  3. Given that the article clearly stated that Amazon Advantage was one way to get books sold through Amazon without using BookSurge, I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with, Ray.

  4. Vivian, a pay to play publisher that won't take just anyone? That sounds like it would be pretty rare (other than rejecting things that couldn't legally be published, and I suppose some theme PODs may require things to fit a theme). The way their website doesn't list any of the books they have published for sale certainly implies they make their money from authors, not readers. Such a publisher would have little reason to reject anything they could legally publish.

  5. My experience with Amazon doesn't agree–I know for a fact, because of a mix-up, they sell books from, who is a partner. And Lightning Source also says Amazon is a partner. Now, these were done through an Amazon Advantage account, which may work differently. Nonetheless, Amazon does sell POD books printed by other companies.

  6. I do actually, Nautilus Press is a very high end publisher that you have to pay to have them publish your books. They don't take just anyone and they are really expensive. But if they will take you, I hear they are extraordinary, their books are exquisite!

  7. Amazon needs to be slapped with something that makes it back off its monopolistic behavior. It can be a book store, or it can be a publisher, but the Booksurge move and the way they are handling Kindle–privileging Kindle "bestsellers" over other publishers' print bestsellers is just plain wrong.

  8. I look forward to seeing how this will all play out. I believe it is in the best interest of readers, writers and booksellers that this lawsuit proceed.

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