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.


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28 Comments so far

  1. John Manning on January 20, 2010 11:48 am

    Wow, congratulations on your Davis v. Goliath victory. I’m still quite leery of Amazon, as I think it distorts online retailing to the same extent that Wal-Mart distorts brick-and-mortar retailing. It’s just too big now.

    We have a book at Xlibris (whose customer service has been getting worse and worse, to the point that it’s just laughable now). I’m going to overcome my inertia and look into transferring the book to your service.

    Thanks again for your efforts.

  2. Diana Barnum on January 20, 2010 1:09 pm

    Kudos for all your hard work and for also helping so many others in the industry. There’s plenty of room for the big and little guys – and others in between. Here’s for working together for better solutions!

  3. uberVU - social comments on January 20, 2010 1:14 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by victoriastrauss: Amazon settles anti-trust lawsuit filed by self-pub service Booklocker http://tinyurl.com/yaj98c3

  4. Karen Carter on January 20, 2010 1:40 pm

    It’s unfortunate this has all taken place with minimal media attention. Public outcry and the threat of lost sales seem to be the only things that makes Amazon think twice about such troubling actions. Thanks for spreading the word about the settlement. Kudos for your devotion and determination to such an important cause and best wishes for continued success.

  5. Cyndy Kryder on January 20, 2010 1:56 pm

    As a Booklocker POD author, I want to thank you for the time and effort you spent on pursuing this issue. You rock!

  6. Bruce Batchelor on January 20, 2010 2:09 pm

    Hey Angela and Richard -
    CONGRATULATIONS! This is amazing. Truly amazing.
    You did it. You persevered through the years of legal stupidity, and sacrificed time and endured incredible stress. Well done!
    You two are real heroes in my eyes.
    On behalf of all the indie publishers and their authors: a big thank you!
    Best wishes,
    Bruce Batchelor
    Agio Publishing House
    Victoria, BC, Canada

  7. Adrian Segar on January 20, 2010 4:24 pm

    Thank you Ang! I was staggered to see that your costs were $300,000 – thank goodness Amazon paid them. I know this doesn’t compensate you one red cent for your time and I appreciate your willingness and guts to stand up to Amazon’s attempted bullying. It feels good to be a POD author with Booklocker.

  8. Mick Rooney on January 20, 2010 5:50 pm

    Congratulations Angela, thanks for taking a stand against Amazon.

    [...]Amazon has agreed a settlement with Booklocker.com in their class-action lawsuit filed against them in 2008 by the author solutions service. The lawsuit was taken against Amazon by Booklocker.com following the giant e-retailers strong-armed attempts to force publishers using POD printers for their book lists to switch to paying Amazon’s own POD printer, Booksurge. Booklocker.com took the filed the lawsuit against Amazon claiming the e-retailers actions violated federal antitrust laws in the United States.[...]

  9. Eric M Carlson on January 20, 2010 10:49 pm

    Thats great news Angela and Richard. Way to stand your ground and not back down. I cant wait to send you my manuscript for you all to read and hopefully you all accept it so I can be published through a great publisher. The poetry manuscript is still in the works and will be done soon. Best wishes to the both of you. Eric.

  10. John Fogelgren on January 21, 2010 9:32 am

    I am very grateful that you had the courage to stop those who tried to take away a chunk of my liberty.

  11. Jackie (Micke) Jinks on January 21, 2010 1:07 pm

    My total admiration for you and Richard on filing this action suit and staying with it when other POD publishers “folded” to Amazon’s demands. You’ve proven “where there is right, there is might”, and I appreciate and compliment you for doing so.
    Thank You…Thank You…THANK YOU! – MJ

  12. Steve Roth on January 21, 2010 1:59 pm

    You guys *rock*!

    (Say hi to Richard for me.)

    Steve

  13. You Get The . Info » Amazon Backs Down On Demanding Publisher Use Only Its Own Print-On-Demand Solution – 2831th Edition on January 21, 2010 4:18 pm

    [...] action lawsuit was filed, and after a judge refused to throw out the case, it looks like Amazon quickly agreed to settle (thanks Achura). Unfortunately, from the wording of the agreement, even though this was filed as a [...]

  14. Over-texts.com - Texts about everything» Archiwum blogu » Amazon settles antitrust lawsuit on January 22, 2010 1:23 am

    [...] the announcement the settlement [...]

  15. FiledBy | Blog » Amazon in the News on January 22, 2010 10:05 am

    [...] violation of federal antitrust laws for its print-on-demand (POD) policies. The two have now settled that [...]

  16. The Shocking Tale of BookLocker v. Amazon | Regular Guy's Experiments in www on January 23, 2010 3:02 pm

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

  17. Heidi Cardenas on January 24, 2010 5:59 pm

    Thanks for having the courage to do the right thing. That’s such a rarely seen characteristic today, when everyone is ruled by fear.

  18. Christina Ivazes on January 25, 2010 9:52 am

    Yeah!!!! I knew that Book Locker was my kind of publisher with an activist spirit to boot. In this day and age, in any day and age, we want service providers to remember who they are serving and you at Book Locker seem to have that clear!

    I am excited about choosing you for my publishing needs! Thank you for fighting for us and not being intimidated. Now, if we could talk Obama into the same kind of push back, we may have a chance!

  19. Keoki Gray on January 25, 2010 1:25 pm

    Dear Angela and Richard,
    Thanks soooo much for taking the bit in your teeth and running with this–especially with so little peer support. It was not only the right thing to do, but shows your authors once again how much you care about them. As one of those authors, thank you, Thank You, THANKYOU!!!
    Keoki Gray, Author
    Song of the Archaeopteryx

  20. John Soares on January 26, 2010 1:21 pm

    Angela, thank you for pursuing Amazon on this issue. I’m very happy the little guys won one against the big guy.

    I have major concerns about large companies like Amazon behaving in a monopolistic manner.

  21. Daniel Brenton on January 30, 2010 6:45 pm

    Angela and Richard! Congrats, congrats, congrats!

    I’ve been watching this with great interest. (I was sold on your company before this happened, and with this you’ve definitely won me over.)

    All the best,

    – Daniel

  22. Macmillan Books Pulled from Amazon.com on January 31, 2010 2:03 pm

    [...] This isn’t the first time Amazon has pulled buy buttons from publishers, though the last time they did it, it was from small, independent publishers. At that time, Amazon allegedly was trying to force small publishers to move all POD books to Amazon’s BookSurge/CreateSpace service. Amazon recently lost an anti-trust suit over this. [...]

  23. Judy Pearce on February 3, 2010 4:50 pm

    Great reading about your Amazon fiasco. I’m a new member so it’s all fresh. Thank you for taking up such a huge commitment. Hope you’re enjoying more time with your little one, the growing years are SO important! Judy

  24. Jim Williams on February 4, 2010 11:01 am

    Dear Angela…

    Congratulations on winning! More power to you.

    About two years ago you published my short piece on writing public service announcements for local radio.

    Keep up the good work.

    Always look forward to your newsletter.

    Jim Williams…

    Booklocker, run by Writers-Weekly editor Angela Hoy, has reached an
    agreement with Amazon in the antitrust class action lawsuit it filed
    against the online retailer in 2008. Amazon wanted to force all
    print-on-demand publishers to use BookSurge, or, in other words, pay
    Amazon to print their books. Amazon also threatened to remove the
    ‘buy-it-now’ buttons from these publishers if they didn’t comply.
    Amazon has backed down from this and also paid $300,000 towards
    Booklocker’s legal fees. For more on this story visit:
    http://tinyurl.com/yaj98ca

  25. Amazon Settles With BookLocker - Self-Publishing and Online Bookstores on February 4, 2010 1:17 pm

    [...] If you like these articles and job links, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting! Write well and often, AYou may already know this, but on January 20 Angela Hoy published Amazon Backs Down; Settles Antitrust Lawsuit Filed By BookLocker. [...]

  26. Cherie Boen on February 25, 2010 2:31 pm

    Dear Angela,
    I am one of those wannabes–no book lots of ideas, et all (read procrastinators) who read you regularly. Thank you for this work. It is another David vs. Galiath story, and all of us who might write (as well as do write) owe you our gratitude. So you complain—big deal. Every industry needs a squeeking wheel to exist in the midst of the sheep and the do-nothing bitchers. If I ever do get that writing done, you may rest assured where it will be publisher (or rejected!) Again, thank you!

  27. Amazon revisited – Inhabitatio Dei on March 4, 2010 12:55 pm

    [...] suit was filed by rightfully upset publishers and, unable to get the suit dismissed Amazon ended up settling. Good on the publishers for standing up to them and not letting themselves be swatted [...]

  28. Lynda Giusti-Parra on March 10, 2010 1:37 am

    Congratulations are in order, but more than that, your integrity and professionalism shines like a beacon of light. I know it was a long haul; I aspire to your tenacity, to your insight and to your success!