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Saturday, July 13, 2024 | Back issues
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No Wonder Those Books Weren’t Selling

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) - The powerful company that assigns ISBN numbers to books hurt a publisher by falsely claiming that all its books are out of print, the publisher claims in court.

A.P. Lee & Co. sued R.R. Bowker LLC, several of its employees, and BookMasters, a distributor, in Franklin County Court.

Bowker has "the U.S. monopoly on granting ISBNs to publishers" and also "publishes 'Books in Print,' touted by Bowker as the most trusted and authoritative source of bibliographical information available," Lee says in its complaint.

The International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, is a "13-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products and is used to simplify distribution and purchase of books throughout the global supply chain," according to the complaint.

Lee, which is based in Columbus, claims: "On June 1, 2012, defendant BookMasters notified defendants Cheryl Patrick and Rhonda McKendrick at Bowker that BookMasters/AtlasBooks would no longer be distributing A.P. Lee and Co.'s books effective June 1, 2012.

"On December 10, 2012, A.P. Lee and Co. discovered that Bowker had falsely published in 'Books in Print' that plaintiff's four printed books were 'out of print' and unavailable for purchase after June 1, 2012."

Lee claims that either Patrick or McKendrick was responsible for this.

It adds: "This defamatory publication of false information has adversely affected A.P. Lee and Co. in its trade and business through lost book sales and loss of reputation in the publishing industry as an ongoing concern."

Bowker compounded the damage by "publish(ing) in 'Books in Print' on an unknown date(s) that plaintiff's three Kindle eBooks, audiobook, ten CDs, and seven DVDs are not available from any distributor or any other source, including their publisher A.P. Lee and Co. These false publications in Books in Print are believed to date back to as early as 2007," the complaint states.

Lee claims that "when asked to change its policies in order to allow publishers to either be the sole source of information about their products or to verify data Bowker fabricates or obtains from others before its gets published, defendant Bowker's official position was: 'We cannot agree to your request to revise our operations' and 'This has been Bowker's practice for decades.' Bowker then threatened to remove A.P. Lee and Co.'s titles entirely from 'Books in Print,' thereby increasing its monetary damages by making it appear that plaintiff has no products for sale at all.

"When asked to publish a retraction of the false information and a correction setting forth accurate information for A.P. Lee and Co.'s titles, defendant Bowker refused and further responded that it would only upload corrections 'in a timely manner' and update 'Books in Print' 'according to Bowker's regular update schedules.' These facts show Bowker's malicious intent to defame plaintiff and to do nothing to lessen plaintiff's damages."

Lee seeks at least $50,000 in compensatory damages, and punitive damages for defamation, breach of contract, copyright infringement and conversion.

It is represented by Nanci Danison of Dublin, Ohio.

A.P Lee specializes in books on spirituality and the afterlife, according to a list of its books on its website this morning.

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