Independent Booksellers Sue Amazon and Publishers Over Ebooks

Feb 21, 2013

If you're lucky enough to still have an independent bookstore in your area, you've probably wondered what would happen to it in the age of e-books. Well, those little shops aren't waiting to find out. Instead independent booksellers have banded together to file a class action lawsuit against Amazon and six publishers. According to the complaint, the Bookhouse of Stuyvesant Plaza, Fiction Addiction, and Posman Books at Grand Central have filed against Amazon, Random House, Penguin Group, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Macmillan "on behalf of themselves and other similarly situated independent brick-and-mortar bookstores."

The plaintiffs allege that the use of digital rights management (DRM) -- combined with Amazon's domination of the ebook and e-reader market, which the suit puts at 60% -- amount to an ebook monopoly. In some cases, the suit says, some ebooks are only available through the Amazon platform, including books from the "BIG SIX" also named in the suit.

As PaidContent points out, all three of the complaining booksellers sell ebooks for the Kobo device - which also uses DRM, as do Apple, Barnes & Noble, and others. What the plaintiffs seem to be most bothered by is Amazon's domination of the market, and in some cases, exclusive deals with publishers. And it is probably no coincidence that this suit was filed shortly after the Department of Justice settled with the last of the six publishers over ebook price-fixing charges that Apple plans to fight. Many people who spoke out against that suit expressed concerns that if Apple and the publishers lost, it would effectively hand an ebook monopoly to Amazon.