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Three indie bookstores file lawsuit against Amazon and Big Six publishers

The stores charge that secret agreements made between the publishers and Amazon give Amazon the advantage in selling e-books, but some industry observers find flaws in their logic.

By Staff Writer / February 21, 2013

The Kindle is the official e-reading device produced by Amazon. Three independent bookstores allege that the method in which the bookseller sells e-books is hurting their business.

Mark Lennihan/AP

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Three independent bookstores are suing online bookseller behemoth Amazon and the publishers known as the Big Six, claiming that the group has created a monopoly in the sale of e-books.

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Fiction Addiction, a store based in Greenville, S.C.; Posman Books, a New York City store which has three locations; and Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza of Albany, N.Y., filed the class action lawsuit.

The suit, which was filed in New York, takes aim at Amazon, Hachette, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Random House, and Macmillan.

The stores that filed the suit say that they represent “all independent brick-and-mortar bookstores who sell e-books."

The root of the complaint centers on digital rights management, which makes it difficult for a reader to switch an e-book from one e-reading device to another – for example, to move a book from a Kindle, the Amazon e-reader, to a Kobo, the one sold by indie bookstores.

The indie bookstores are saying that’s hurting their business.

"We are seeking relief for independent brick-and-mortar bookstores so that they would be able to sell open-source and DRM-free books that could be used on the Kindle or other electronic ereaders,” Alyson Decker of Blecher & Collins PC, who is serving as lead counsel for the bookstores, told the Huffington Post.

The suit claims that Amazon entered into confidential agreements with the six publishing houses. E-books sold by all six publishers come with the digital rights management lock that makes it difficult to move them to different devices. 

“Currently, none of the Big Six have entered into any agreements with any independent brick-and-mortar bookstores or independent collectives to sell their e-books,” the plaintiffs write in their suit. “Consequently, the vast majority of readers who wish to read an e-book published by the Big Six will purchase the e-book from Amazon.”

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