The Shocking Tale of BookLocker v. Amazon

Bangor, Maine based BookLocker has won a suit against which claimed Amazon violated anti-trust law. The complaint was that Amazon used intimidation and other mafia-like tactics to shut down a publisher’s ability to use their own printer by attempting to force these publishers to use Amazon’s own POD printing business, BookSurge (now called CreateSpace).


You will respect Amazon's authoritah!!!

Let’s say you are an independent publisher, a niche publisher or a small digital printing company. And let’s say you have produced some titles that you’re ready to put on the market. I don’t know a whole lot about marketing books, but I do know that would be one place you could get some sales.

From Wikipedia:In March 2008, sales representatives of Amazon’s BookSurge division started contacting publishers of print on demand titles to inform them that for Amazon to continue selling their POD-produced books, they were required to sign agreements with Amazon’s own BookSurge POD company. Publishers were told that eventually, the only POD titles that Amazon would be selling would be those printed by their own company, BookSurge.

Digital priniting could be a great equalizer for authors and other content creators in much the same way as MP3 was for the music industry. Because of digital technology, including desktop publishing and digital printing, the average person could create their own book, print on demand and sell over the internet without really needing much expertise at all. The democratization of publishing had finally arrived.

Then Amazon, really just a distributor of titles, decided that if you wanted to sell your books on their website, they would print the titles for you. Think about that: if you are a garage band, you make a recording, and put it up on iTunes. Apple doesn’t MAKE YOU use their recording studio and musicians to record your work. They just allow the distribution, take a little cut, everyone goes home happy. Not so Amazon.

For whatever reason, BookLocker decided that was the sort of monopolistic practice ‘up with which they would not put’. Two years later, after Amazon tried to make this case just go away, citing the legal precedent known as “We can do what we want!” (Eric Cartman v. everyone, South Park Supreme Court ruling, 2002), the case has been settled. Read more details here.

BookLocker mostly just wanted to put out a good product and use the printer of their choosing. Amazon’s printer was well known mostly for producing bad quality, lousy customer service, higher than average prices, and slow turnaround. By trying to shut out other POD printers, Amazon is clearly an enemy of the printing industry, as evidenced by their zeal with the marketing of the Kindle. Which is a whole other ball of worms.

I am curious about why it hasn’t been bigger news in the print industry blogs. I am overly suspicious, especially of the What They Think consortium (Print CEO and its child blogs like The Printing Office and Digital Nirvana). All that aside, congratulations to BookLocker,  for taking this on. I love this quote from the blog they set up for this lawsuit:

Large companies will run all over small ones unless somebody fights back. The publishing industry contains many players and, for the benefit of readers everywhere, they all deserve an equal place in the market. Allowing the largest online retailer to strong-arm publishers into paying more for a product that may, in fact, be inferior hurts publishers, authors, and, ultimately, the reader. Yes, BookSurge (now operating under the CreateSpace name) has had quality problems. We recently ordered some books from them to see if things had changed. One arrived looking so bad that Amazon inserted an apology note into the book itself, saying it was the best they could get from their distributor. (IT’S THEIR BOOK!) Another arrived with the interior appearing upside-down. Their quality problems have been reported online by others as well.

Please read and comment on BookLocker’s blog: Amazon Backs Down; Settles Antitrust Lawsuit

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