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Amazon sued by British publisher

Wednesday, December 08, 1999

By Ann Belser, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Amazon.com, the world's largest Internet retailer, is being sued by one of the world's smallest publishers, Toby Press Inc.

At issue: whether Amazon.com is lying to prospective customers by stating a book is unavailable, when in reality, it may be available, but not through Amazon.com.

In its lawsuit, Toby Press says it has refused to sell any of the six titles it publishes through Amazon.com, and instead is making them available only through its catalog or Web site, www.tobypress.com.

But instead of telling customers that the books are available elsewhere, the lawsuit says, Amazon.com is stating that it is out of stock and buyers should check back in four to six weeks.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, states that Amazon.com is making false and misleading statements by saying the books are out of stock when the truth is that Amazon.com is not licensed to carry those titles.

Toby Press was established this year by Matthew Miller in London and has offices there and in Brookfield, Conn.

The lawsuit was filed in Pennsylvania because, according to the lawsuit, the statements about Toby Press books were directed at residents of the state and prevented future sales of the books here.

Miller's attorney, Rebecca J. Dick-Hurwitz, who is based in Pittsburgh, would not answer questions about the case.

Miller said on his company Web site that the goal of the publishing house is to offer "the most original and exciting new writing available today ... not available from any book shop or Internet bookseller, Toby Press books bring you a quality of writing both rare and significant."

The lawsuit states the company tries to provide readers with "works of fiction of a very high literary standard."

In October, the company started selling its first six novels, which are distributed only through the company's catalog or its Web site.

On Amazon.com yesterday, the listing for "Failing Paris" by Samantha Dunn stated "the publisher is out of stock. If you would like to purchase this title, we recommend that you occasionally check this page to see if it has been reprinted."

Amazon.com's spokesman Paul Capelli could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Toby Press said the statements on Amazon.com "have prevented customers from locating and purchasing the book, by misleading them into believing that the book is not available at all, when in fact it is available through The Toby Press."

The lawsuit says Amazon.com's British counterpart, Amazon.co.uk, has taken a similar tack by stating that one of Toby Press' books, "Absence" by Raymond Tallis, one of the publisher's British authors, is also unavailable.

As a remedy, the lawsuit asks that Amazon.com stop making false statements about books by Toby Press and asks that Amazon.com's statements be replaced with the following statement: "This book is not available from Amazon.com, but can be ordered from the publisher directly at www.tobypress.com."

The lawsuit also asks that a hypertext link, which will bring buyers directly to the Toby Press Web site, be included.



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