Amazon takes on textbook counterfeiting in 'sting operation'

Amazon takes on textbook counterfeiting in 'sting operation'

Amazon is tackling sales of counterfeit textbooks on its US site after suspending the accounts of booksellers allegedly selling counterfeit books in a major online sting.

Publishers Lunch reported last week that Amazon had launched a “sting operation” leading to the suspension of “at least 20” US booksellers for allegedly shipping counterfeit textbooks.

An Amazon spokesman said: “These counterfeit books were caught in a test buy program we operate, which is just one component of our aggressive anti-counterfeiting efforts. The publishers for these books confirmed that these particular books were counterfeit so we took swift action to protect our customers.”

Cengage, Elsevier, Macmillan Learning, McGraw-Hill Education, and Pearson have collaborated on a website, stopcounterfeitbooks.com, intended to raise awareness of the problem of counterfeiting they say is “significantly” contributing to the decline of textbook revenues. Other challenges faced by such publishers in the US market already include increased textbook rentals at the expense of sales.

“Counterfeit textbooks are a substantial problem in the educational marketplace, burdening students with inferior products; exposing distributors to legal liability and unsaleable inventory; and depriving authors and publishers of the funds necessary to reinvest in new educational content,” the website says, and appeals to sellers: “Booksellers want to be associated with value and authentic products, not counterfeits and the headaches that come with them.”

But while publishers may well welcome Amazon’s flexing of its “zero tolerance” policy, Amazon sellers say it is not always easy to identify counterfeit products and those who act in good faith deserve better treatment.

The Bookseller has contacted Amazon for comment.