As many of you probably remember, in March, 2008, an Amazon / BookSurge representative called us on the phone and told us we (and other Print on Demand publishers) must start paying Amazon to print our books. If we didn’t, they would remove our “buy it now” buttons from Amazon.com.

NOTE: Amazon recently retired the BookSurge name (that was not a surprise), and is now doing their POD business under the name CreateSpace. Other than the name, not much appears to have changed.

After the phone call, we publicly cried foul, and alerted the publishing industry about the threat. We subsequently heard from other publishers who had received the same ultimatum, including a university press. A media firestorm erupted and many authors and publishers alike screamed “monopoly”, launching an online revolt. Several, including myself, boycotted Amazon.com, and publicly shared their anger about the Amazon / BookSurge (now CreateSpace) Ultimatum.

Our publicity efforts forced Amazon to finally make public what targeted POD publishers claimed to have been told through what some considered intimidating phone conversations. Until that point, Amazon hadn’t appeared to want to put anything in writing.

Unfortunately, many of the large POD publishers signed the Amazon / BookSurge (now CreateSpace) contract after Amazon gave them a deadline. We did not. BookLocker.com, instead, filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon, alleging their actions violated federal antitrust laws.

That’s when the real battle began. We spent hundreds of hours researching, corresponding with other publishers, authors and our attorneys, and writing and rewriting legalese that would at times make my eyes glaze over. Each time I had to work on the case, my initial anger about the unfairness of it all would return. I’ll admit it was hard to keep a smile on my face most days. The worst part of the entire experience was the time I was forced to spend away from our children because of Amazon’s actions. Mason is three years old and we’ve been dealing with this for almost two years now.

As expected, Amazon filed a motion to dismiss. We were not surprised in August, 2009 when Chief U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr. issued a 26-page order denying Amazon’s motion to dismiss.

We suspected Amazon would want to settle before discovery began and we were right.

We hammered out the details for almost two months. I wanted to share the settlement information with you all in the worst way during that time, but could not because the negotiations could have fallen through at any moment (and almost did a few times!). For example, we specified initially that any cash offered to BookLocker by Amazon would go directly to a charity and we wanted that statement included in the settlement. Amazon refused to allow the charity wording to appear in there. (Why do you think they did that??) We subsequently refused any cash payment from Amazon. We then included a statement in the settlement that BookLocker declined a cash settlement from Amazon…and Amazon insisted on removing that verbiage, too.

You can read the final settlement HERE.

We didn’t do this for the money. We did it to make Amazon understand that covert efforts aimed at forcing POD publishers to pay Amazon / BookSurge (now Createspace) to print their books is not the way responsible corporate citizens should act. By getting Amazon to rescind their pay-us-to-print-your-books-or-else policy, we believe BookLocker’s lawsuit achieved its goal.

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.

I know many of you, readers, authors, and publishers alike, have many questions and I’ll be happy to answer them! Please email your questions to me at angela – at – booklocker.com. I’ll publish the questions (anonymously, of course) and the answers right here – so keep checking back.

Finally, we want to publicly express our deepest gratitude to Seth Klein, Bob Izard, and all the caring folks at Izard Nobel LLP, and to Anthony Pellegrini and the team at Rudman & Winchell. Without them, we and all POD publishers might be in a completely different position today.

UPDATE – NEWS ARTICLES:

Amazon, Booklocker Settle
Publishers Weekly

Amazon settles lawsuit over print-on-demand books
TechFlash

Amazon Settles Antitrust Lawsuit Filed by BookLocker
Writing for Hire

Amazon Agree Settlement in Booklocker.com Antitrust Lawsuit
Mick Rooney – POD, Self Publishing and Independent Publishing

Amazon Backs Down On Demanding Publisher Use Only Its Own Print-On-Demand Solution
TechDirt

Amazon defeated by independent POD Publishers
The Long Riders’ Guild Press

Amazon Settles Antitrust Lawsuit Filed by BookLocker
Writing for Hire

Amazon – And the Perils of PODing
Sgt. Mom

Who Moved My Buy Button?

UPDATE – QUESTIONS FROM READERS, AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS:

What about the ones who caved? Do you think they’ll renegotiate? – Nan

Unfortunately, since the case had not yet been certified as class-action, the POD publishers who caved must ask their own attorneys what they can do. Had they joined us as lead plaintiffs in the beginning (many publishers were afraid to publicly confront Amazon), they would have been covered by any settlement as well. I admit this was a very bitter part of the story for me. We were basically thrown to the wolves, and had to publicly fight on our own, with many publishers whispering to us in the background, but not publicly joining us on the front lines. I may write about that in the future. For now, we are enjoying the victory.

I’m delighted to hear this but a bit worried that you and Richard were forced to pay all of the legal fees you incurred over the two year period. I admit I only scanned the entire write up — did you indeed have to pay everything with no compensation? -T

Oh, heavens no. The law firm took our case on a contingency basis and Amazon agreed to pay our attorneys $300K directly.

You are sweet to be concerned about us, T!! No way could we afford to front $300K in legal fees (or even a fraction of that). Makes my stomach turn just thinking about it.

Congratulations on the settlement. Could you clarify a point? I’ve read the settlement, and it’s clear that Booklocker is exempted from Amazon’s “pay us to print your books or else” policy, but what about other publishers? Their November 2009 update mentions working on a “case-by-case basis,” but this could mean that any other publisher could be subject to the same “or else” policy. Do I misunderstand? – P.

Since our case was not yet certified as class-action, and since none of the “other guys” had joined us as lead plaintiffs, the settlement itself does not (and could not) apply to anyone other than Booklocker.com.

The publishers who have already signed the Amazon / BookSurge (now CreateSpace) contract would need to contact their own attorneys to assess their situation. We could not negotiate a settlement on behalf of all POD publishers because we were the only plaintiff at that point in time.

While I agree that Amazon’s new statement is very vague and doesn’t really promise anything, they did agree to rescind their original policy. Since we had no control over their actions with regards to other POD publishers (since they weren’t plaintiffs yet), we couldn’t force them to offer something to companies (potential class members) that weren’t (yet) involved in the lawsuit.

Again, had any of them stepped up to the plate and stood beside us as lead plaintiffs, they would also have been protected by any settlement. Unfortunately, we were contacted by many, some of whom begged us to never divulge their names, who admitted they were afraid of going public and angering Amazon.

You at Booklocker are truly amazing. I say congratulations to the Amazon litigation, I just kowtow before you. I love your triumph. I looked up your pages about that, but couldn’t find out why you settled when you could have won. -E.

Amazon rescinded their policy and promised not to mess with us. Again, while we’d have loved to protect all POD authors and publishers, no other publisher had stepped forward to join us in the lawsuit. We couldn’t make deals for companies that weren’t plaintiffs. We are very happy that we were able to protect our authors.

Sure, we could have gotten greedy and demanded tens of thousands of dollars, etc, etc., but that’s just not the kind of people we are. Why drag it out, muck up the courts, force the legal fees even higher (on both sides), and keep the stress at such an extreme level when we could just get back to work and living our normal, quiet lives? Like I said, we didn’t do this for the money. We did it because it was the right thing to do.

In a 26-page order today, Chief U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr.
had denied Amazon.com’s motion to dismiss.
You can read the entire order (a pdf file) HERE (Link to PDF).
Denial of the motion to dismiss means the case may proceed. Among other steps, we anticipate beginning discovery (where we are able to request documents from Amazon) shortly. Although there is still a long way to go, surviving the motion to dismiss is an important first step.
Questions regarding this development may be directed to:
PLAINTIFF – BOOKLOCKER.COM, INC.
Angela Hoy – angela@booklocker.com
Richard Hoy – richard@booklocker.com
ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF – IZARD NOBEL LLP
Seth Klein – sklein@izardnobel.com

In a 26-page order today, Chief U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr. has denied Amazon.com’s motion to dismiss.

You can read the entire order (a pdf file) HERE.

Denial of the motion to dismiss means the case may proceed. Among other steps, we anticipate beginning discovery (where we are able to request documents from Amazon) shortly. Although there is still a long way to go, surviving the motion to dismiss is an important first step.

Questions regarding this development may be directed to:

PLAINTIFF – BOOKLOCKER.COM, INC.
Angela Hoy – angela@booklocker.com
Richard Hoy – richard@booklocker.com

ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF – IZARD NOBEL LLP
Seth Klein – sklein@izardnobel.com

UPDATE - List of Articles:

ONLINE RETAIL: Amazon headed to court, judge rules
Associated Press

Court Denies Amazon’s Motion to Dismiss BookLocker Antitrust Lawsuit
Publishers Weekly

Amazon – Booksurge Antitrust Lawsuit: Motion to Dismiss Refused
Mick Rooney

Amazon/BookSurge Issues Still in Court
Nina Amir

Antitrust suit against Amazon to continue
TeleRead

Booklocker v. Amazon Continues
About Freelance Writing

Money Grafs from the Booklocker Ruling
Munsey’s Technosnarl

Entrepreneur takes on Amazon in court – wins first skirmish
OnText

Amazon BookSurge Anti-Trust Lawsuit Can Proceed
Victoria Strauss

Amazon fails to end lawsuit over print-on-demand books
TechFlash

Court Denies Amazon’s Motion To Dismiss Booklocker Antitrust Lawsuit
Booktrade.info

Bangor bookseller proceeds with Amazon lawsuit
Mainebiz

Judge Denies Amazon’s Motion to Dismiss Antirust Case
Graphic Arts Online

Booklocker leads small publishers in battle against Amazon
The St. Louis Publishers Association (SPLA) Blog

Judge says suit against Amazon can proceed
THE NEWS TRIBUNE

Amazon Fails To Get Tying Class Action Dismissed
law360.com

Amazon fails to end lawsuit over print-on-demand books
Puget Sound Business Journal

ONLINE RETAIL: Amazon headed to court, judge rules
THE OLYMPIAN

Amazon Loses Round 1 of Print-On Demand Book Lawsuit
InfoBlog

On February 9th, BookLocker.com and Amazon / BookSurge were in Federal court in Bangor, Maine. BookLocker subsequently filed an amended complaint to clarify some points raised by the judge.

That amended complaint is here:
http://antitrust.booklocker.com/amended-complaint.pdf

Amazon / BookSurge has until March 20th to respond.

The Judge has asked for oral arguments on the motion to dismiss. In layman’s terms this means that the Judge wants the legal teams of both BookLocker and Amazon / BookSurge to come to Bangor and present their arguments in person.

If you recall, back in August Amazon / BookSurge lawyers filed a motion to dismiss (an expected legal move). Basically, the motion to dismiss is a formal petition to the court that BookLocker’s class action suit had no legal grounds and should, for that reason, be thrown out.

Requesting oral arguments gives the Judge the opportunity to ask questions of the lawyers on both sides and to understand better the issues involved before ruling on the motion to dismiss.

Labor Conditions at Amazon UK

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A reporter at the The Sunday Times (UK) went undercover at Amazon.co.uk after receiving a tip about labor conditions. Read the article HERE.

Think you’re safe from the Amazon/BookSurge ultimatum because you’re in the United Kingdom? Think again. You might be next!

Amazon has lauched a POD service in the U.K. While they say “We are offering titles that are being produced by other print on demand providers”…they don’t say they’ll continue to do so.

The article also states: “It is unclear whether this move will affect terms negotiations with publishers. North refused to comment adding ‘we are launching something brand new and we hope it will create savings that will benefit everybody’.”

Read the entire article (and don’t miss the reader comments!) here: http://thebookseller.com/news/68379-amazon-uk-launches-pod-service.html

We recently ran across an interesting quote by Jeff Bezos, written 10 years ago when Barnes and Noble tried to buy Ingram Book Group. (The deal was abandoned by Barnes and Noble seven months later under pressure resulting from antitrust concerns of the FTC and independent booksellers.)

Amazon.com’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, immediately took a defiant approach: “To our customers: Worry not … Those who make choices that are genuinely good for customers, authors, and publishers will prevail. Goliath is always in range of a good slingshot … Our long-term strategy has been to diversify our supplier base and to increase our direct purchasing from publishers.”
Source: Barnes & Noble Buys Ingram and Sets Off a Powder Keg

Pot, meet kettle.

PooperScoops weighs in with: Hypocrisy From Amazon’s Glass House

SPAN Petition

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The petition from SPAN, the Small Publishers Association of North America, is now up:

http://www.spannet.org/amazonantitrust-signers.htm

Thanks to everyone for their support!

Publisher’s Weekly released a story today summarizing the arguments between Amazon and BookLocker, based on the court filings:

Amazon, Booklocker Trade Motions in POD Antitrust Case


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