Friday, October 2, 2009

Update on the lawsuit of BookLocker against Amazon and its green aspect

More and more news from the book world are coming these days from court rooms. Now it's an antitrust lawsuit that was brought against by Booklocker, an independent POD publisher.

Mainebiz reported that the lawsuit entered a new chapter after a federal judge denied Amazon's request to have the suit thrown out.

This case caught our attention as it's basically about the freedom of authors and publishers that use Amazon's marketplace services to choose their printer, which not only has important
legal and financial consequences on the POD industry, but also environmental ones.

BookLocker is a small print on demand (POD) publishing company that is selling Amazon to sell books. The process is very simple: when a customer is ordering one of their books on Amazon, the company sends the order to a printing company contracted by BookLocker. The printer would then ship the book directly to the customer using an Amazon label.

So far, so good and this is a common practice used by many POD publishers. Now, here's the catch: as Mainebiz reports, in early 2008, Amazon began telling companies like BookLocker that it would only directly sell print-on-demand books printed by a specific printer, which happens to be a subsidiary of Amazon called BookSurge.

BookLocker claims in court this is an unfair business practice that amount to a violation of federal antitrust laws. By forcing publishers to use a specific printer, the lawsuit alleges Amazon is preventing access to the benefits of a free market. In addition, the quality and price that Amazon's subsidiary, BookSurge, offers is not on par with what BookLocker currently can find in the marketplace. "BookSurge charges higher fees than [BookLocker currently] pays for printing, and BookSurge prints books of lower quality than [BookLocker's] printer and other printers," the complaint says.

Amazon filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, denying BookLocker's claim of product tying, but about a month ago, Chief U.S. District Court Judge John Woodcock Jr. denied Amazon's motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit. Judge Woodcock said there was enough evidence in the case "to permit the plausible inference that Amazon is unlawfully forcing purchase of its (print-on-demand) service."

It will be very interesting to follow this case, as it has a great importance to the POD niche, which as Angela Hoy, who owns BookLocker with her husband Richard, told Mainebiz "is very tree-friendly and also more reasonable, financially, for authors and publishers alike." We definitely agree with her on this point.

We are pro-choice especially when it comes to printers, and not just for the sake of fairness, but also for the sake of sustainability. I have to admit I'm not familiar with the green practices of BookSurge, and actually I read they use FSC-certified paper with recycled content, but nevertheless, even if they're as green as it gets, I believe competition can push the envelope further for them as well as for other printers and make sure publishers will have more green printing options.

We'll keep following this interesting case and keep you posted so stay tuned!


Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: promoting sustainable reading!