updated 06:34 pm EST, Thu February 21, 2013
Suit blames DRM for lack of ability to enter the market
Independent booksellers The Book House, Posman Books, and Fiction Addiction are suing Amazon and the "Big Six" publishers consisting of Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. The suit accuses the seven companies of monopolizing the e-book market by selling titles encumbered by draconian digital rights management, and says that the companies have a seeming unwillingness to enter into agreements with smaller bookstore chains or groups. The moves have limited consumers' choices, and barred independents from successfully entering the e-book market, the booksellers say.
Attorney for the sellers Alyson Decker said in a statement that "we are seeking relief for independent brick-and-mortar bookstores so that they would be able to sell open-source and DRM-free e-books that could be used on the Kindle or other electronic e-readers." Allegedly, Amazon and the publishers are violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.
The book sellers claim that Amazon commands 60 percent of the ebook market, with Barnes & Noble at 27 percent. Apple holds 10 percent, according to the suit paperwork. The suit is asking the court to prohibit Amazon and the publishers from selling e-books with device or app-specific DRM, and Amazon would only be allowed to sell readers and tablets that allowed books from any store. The publishers would be required to make e-book titles available for independent bookstores to sell.
Cory Doctorow points out that the suit uses the terms "Open Source" and "DRM" improperly. Doctorow says that he empathizes with the sellers, but wishes that the claimants had "actually bothered to spend 15 minutes trying to understand how DRM works and what it is, and how Open Source works, and what it is, before they filed their lawsuit. Grossly misusing technical terms (and demanding a remedy that no customer wants -- there's no market for DRM among book-buyers) makes you look like fools and bodes poorly for the suit."