Three independent bookstores sue Amazon, publishers

Amazon is the subject of a new class action lawsuit filed by independent booksellers.
(David McNew / Getty Images)

Three independent bookstores have filed a class action suit against Amazon and the six major publishers, accusing them of creating a monopoly in e-book sales. The complaint, filed in New York on Feb. 15, focuses on digital rights management, known as DRM.

The stores involved in the complaint are hardly the nation’s largest. They are Fiction Addiction of Greenville, S.C., Albany N.Y.'s Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza and Posman Books, which has three locations in New York City. They’ll be going up against Amazon, Simon and Schuster, Penguin, Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins and Macmillan.

The Huffington Post, which has posted a copy of the complaint, says the suit “claims that by entering into confidential agreements with the Big Six publishers, who control approximately 60 percent of print book revenue in the U.S., Amazon has created a monopoly in the marketplace that is designed to control prices and destroy independent booksellers.”


Lead counsel for the bookstores, Alyson Decker of Blecher & Collins PC, told the Huffington Post, “We are seeking relief for independent brick-and-mortar bookstores so that they would be able to sell open-source and DRM-free books that could be used on the Kindle or other electronic ereaders.”

Under current technological conditions, DRM means that someone who buys an e-book for his or her Kindle can read it only on that device or on a Kindle reader installed on another device. After paying for an e-book, the buyer cannot transfer it to another person, nor can they load it on a non-Kindle e-reader, such as a Barnes & Noble Nook.

The legal action comes after the major publishers agreed to settle a separate lawsuit brought by the Department of Justice. That suit accused those companies of colluding with Apple -- and Amazon was left out. This suit leaves out Apple, but accuses those same book companies of having confidential agreements with Amazon.

It also comes at an unusual time. The lawsuit says the three bookstores were filing suit on behalf of “all independent brick-and-mortar bookstores who sell e-books.” The American Booksellers Assn., which represents independent bookstores, has not been able to respond to our request for comment -- Chief Executive Oren Teicher is out of the office, preparing for the organization’s Winter Institute conference, which begins Friday in Kansas City, Mo.


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