BookLocker, one of many print-on-demand (POD) publishers who are threatened by Amazon's move to vertically integrate POD with online sales by priveleging authors who publish with Amazon subsidiary BookSurge, has brought a lawsuit against the Web retailing giant in the United States District Court of Maine. According to the allegations, Amazon and BookSurge have done everything in their power to keep this under the radar — by notifying publishers and authors over the phone instead of in writing, and demanding confidentiality agreements in the proposed contracts. But the case really hinges on the power of the "Buy now with 1-Click™" button. Why should you care?
Because Amazon already does much to determine what books sell, and how much they sell for, which directly impacts the trade in ideas between readers and writers, not to mention the bottom lines of publishers and the ability for authors to pay rent. In a world where Amazon controls distribution of physical books from small publishers through POD publishing, sales and distribution, as well as electronic distribution through the Kindle reader, the company can effectively shut uncooperative publishers and their ideas out of the business.
The suit itself [PDF] has only just been submitted, and a district court judge will have to judge the case on its merits as well as certify as a class action if other POD publishers, such as LightningSource and Lulu, come forward as fellow plaintiffs in the case. Amazon could relent on some of the more obnoxious terms of their own volition, however, and nip this dispute in the bud if it so chose — which just goes to show how much power Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has over the future of publishing.