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Brooklyn bookstores join fight against the power of Amazon, Barnes and Noble

BookCourt, a well-known independent bookstore on Court Street in Cobble Hill. File photo

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

If you purchased “50 Shades of Gray” on Amazon for your Kindle e-reader, you're blocked from transferring that purchase onto your Barnes and Noble Nook. 

Independent bookstores are protesting against this practice. Three independent bookstores have filed a lawsuit against the mega-online retailer Amazon and the major six publishing houses alleging anti-trust violations.

Posman Books and Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza of New York City and Albany New York, respectively, along with Fiction Addiction of South Carolina, allege in their lawsuit that they represent “all independent brick-and-mortar bookstores who sell e-books."

The basis of the lawsuit is that Amazon and the major book publishers utilize a tool called Digital Rights Management that forces consumers to purchase one book per e-reader brand. DRM technology is embedded in products that control how individuals consume e-products. The purported goal of DRM is to protect copyright owners from copying and piracy that is rampant in the digital world.  

For example, one can purchase the Harry Potter series on Amazon and download it on the Kindle, Amazon’s e-reader. That same already-purchased Harry Potter book would not however, be viewable on the independent e-reader Kobo.

"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 e-readers,” Alyson Decker of Blecher & Collins PC, who is serving as lead counsel for the bookstores, told the Huffington Post.

Community Bookstore bookseller and Brooklyn writer A.N. Devers sympathize with the bookstore’s lawsuit. “ While we haven't had a chance to go over the fine print of the lawsuit, as an independent bookstore, we support bookstores as they push back against Amazon,“ Devers told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

The plaintiffs allege that Amazon and the major publishers entered into covert agreements that allow Amazon to sell books published by the majors with DRM but, the major publishers allegedly have no agreements with independent book stores granting them rights to sell books on their separate websites.

“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,” states the lawsuit. “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.”

“If Amazon has its way, there will be no other bookstores besides Amazon, and that is not a world the readers we sell books to want to live in,” Devers noted.

Zack Zook, events and development manager at BookCourt  in Brooklyn Heights spoke to the plight of independent book stores. “One must realize that independent booksellers in the United States were thrown under the bus a long time ago, so what we've seen develop in the e-book market is of no surprise,” he said.

Amazon has already come under fire for their manipulation of the e-book field. Last year the United States Justice Department field a suit against the company alleging that it—along with the major publishing houses—engaged in a price fixing scheme that prevented publishers from selling books at a lower price to Amazon’s competitors.

Expressing his support for the current lawsuit, Zook said, “I am proud to see fellow independents stand up against a long-continued, corporate coup d'état.”

February 25, 2013 - 12:00pm


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