Maine publisher BookLocker.com has filed an antitrust class action lawsuit against Amazon.com.
According to their blog about the antitrust case, a complaint was filed in Bangor, Maine, on 19 May. Publisher Angela Hoy’s synopsis of their decision to file the complaint references what they consider a clandestine effort on the part of Amazon.com to unlawfully force all publishers to use their proprietary print-on-demand technology, using their own market share to advance their printing subsidiary. The complaint alleges that Amazon is demanding an “anticompetitive tying arrangement that violates section 1 of the Sherman Act” and requests a trial by jury.
Hoy’s entry also mentions that one option facing Print on Demand publishers included paying a premium to be part of Amazon’s “Advantage Program:”
However, they did not divulge in the public statement that the terms of the Advantage Program are even worse than their printing contract. The Advantage Program requires POD publishers to give Amazon 55% of the list price, pay them $29.95/year, and pay the shipping costs for books going to Amazon.
Hoy’s suit, which is currently seeking class-action status, “seeks an injunction preventing Amazon from implementing the new policy, as well as monetary damages and legal fees. There are about 4,300 potential print-on-demand class members,” according to Hoy’s attorney, Seth Klein.
Writer’s Weekly has set up a page tracking the progress of the Amazon complaint as well. According to the Writer’s Weekly page, Amazon/BookSurge had been telling other POD folks verbally (never in writing, a sign that potentially something rots somewhere in the north of Europe) that their options were BookSurge or no sale through Amazon.
This promises to be interesting, because Amazon, by virtue of being a publicly held corporation, has one goal: to make money for shareholders. Some of the discussion I’ve encountered reading about the Amazon/BookSurge controversy has almost taken a tone of horror, as if Amazon should be more altruistic, as if they were a library of some sort.
But that’s individuals, not companies being squeezed by Amazon’s decision as pertains to POD publishing. Positioning themselves in this manner to demand use of their own subsidiary to sell books through their marketplace is a curious move, and I really wonder whether it will hold up or if the injunction and potential class action suit will force them to alter their policy. There are other options, and other online booksellers, but few with the buying or selling power of Amazon, which works for them, or against them in this case.