Booksellers File Antitrust Lawsuit Against Amazon, Publishers

The second shot in law firm Hagens Berman fight against Amazon has been fired.

The firm put out a press release on Thursday announcing that they had found booksellers willing to sue Amazon over an alleged conspiracy with publishers.

Retail booksellers today hit Amazon.com and publishing companies with a class-action lawsuit alleging a massive price-fixing scheme to intentionally constrain the bookselling market and inflate the wholesale price of print books, according to Hagens Berman and its co-counsel Sperling & Slater P.C.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Mar. 25, 2021, and states that Amazon colluded with the Big Five U.S. book publishers – Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster – to restrain competition in the sale of print trade books, or non-academic texts such as fiction and non-fiction material.

This is essentially a follow on to the case Hagens Berman filed in January against Amazon and the Big Five publishers.

It has the same basic claim (that Amazon conspired with publishers to raise ebook prices) and the same lack of evidence to back up the claim. The only thing new here is the change in defendants; rather than consumers, Hagens Berman’s client is a bookstore.

Folks, as I have said before, I would love to see the agency contracts broken, but I just don’t see how Hagens Berman is going to win this case. If they have any evidence of a conspiracy, they did not put it in their filings.

Did I miss something?

image by steakpinball via Flickr

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

5 Comments

  1. Allen F29 March, 2021

    Did you miss something?

    Only the ADS. Just another idiot group trying to blame Amazon for something Amazon isn’t at fault for.

    Tradpub sets the so-called pricing, not Amazon (or the books would be even cheaper!)

    Apple and the big 5 wanted agency to try to hurt Amazon sales – and make Apple more money at the cost of the consumer, the publishers were being paid their full amounts the whole time. By the way, agency only covers ebooks – so I’m not sure why booksellers would care in this case.

    Reply
    1. tired30 March, 2021

      Yeah you missed something alright. The lawsuit is not about ebooks. It is about print books. Amazon has a monopoly on online print books sales. The suit is about most favored nation clauses that have allowed Amazon to unfairly monopolize the market.

      Hagens Berman would indeed know about Apple and the Big 5… because THEY are the ones that sued them.

      It helps to actually read the article.

      Reply
      1. Disgusting Dude30 March, 2021

        Doesn’t matter what the ambulance chasers say and it doesn’t matter whether it is print or digital.
        They can make whatever arguments they want but arguments aren’t going to change the reality tbat ABA booksellers don’t amount to a “hill of beans”.

        Amazon doesn’t print the price on the pbook cover.
        And Amazon doesn’t control what *Ingram* charges other booksellers or their operating costs.

        What matters is the publishers’ volume discounts. The mattered when tbe ABA sued in the 90’s, *before* Amazon and they matter now. Nothing else matters. If that doesn’t change nothing will change.

        Well, the fact that the ABA crowd is a fraction of what B&N, BAM, and HalfPrice move also matters but tbey’re not getting sued. And that those kinds of bookstores are in the wrong business.

        Reply
      2. Allen F30 March, 2021

        Okay, I stand (well sit) corrected.

        Though I still don’t see this as being Amazon’s problem.

        “… and inflate the wholesale price of print books …” isn’t something Amazon does or wants, they like cheaper so they can sell more (see ebook pricing before agency, Amazon was willing to take less profit per sale to make more sales – and for any so-called price fixing you need to go after those publishers – not Amazon.)

        If ABA and their lawyers somehow think ‘most favored nation clauses’ for buying in volume are a problem then they need to get the laws changed to make it illegal, though I expect you’ll hurt B&N, Walmart, Costco and other big chains that by books in bulk more than you’ll hurt Amazon. Added fun, making ‘most favored nation clauses’ illegal would hurt a lot of big businesses – so don’t count on that happening anytime soon.

        And of course ‘filing’ is a long way from getting it to court – much less winning. Lots of ADS types are filing all sorts of things. How many of them ever get to court? Any of them winning?

        Reply
  2. Disgusting Dude30 March, 2021

    These bookstores (and tbeir apologists) still think it’s 1970 out there.
    It isn’t.
    Today’s book market offers shoppers 5Million titles to choose from.
    Not even the biggest “cathedrals of literature” can stock that kind of catalog in B&M.
    At their peak, Borders and B&N carried around 100,000 titles.
    The typical “shop around the corner” ABA store might carry 30-50,000, and at least half are going to be the same new release books found everywhere. Anybody who thinks the masses avoid their stores like the plague only because of pricing are deluded. They are also deluded in thinking they are competing with Amazon.

    Even if Amazon stopped selling all the titles the ABA stores carry, they’d still have a catalog ten times larger and (not surprisingly) ten times the market share. As proven during the Agency conspiracy days, if you take price out of tbe equation, the customers will simply go with the biggest catalog.

    These lawsuits are the last gasp of a dead age. The stores that will endure are the specialty shops focused on specific genres and local authors, exotics, imports, etc. Generalists? Roadkill.No lawsuit can change that.
    Much like LP shops.

    Reply

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