Book sales, just like almost all existing businesses, are being disrupted by the Internet. Amazon started out as an online book retailer and built an e-commerce empire from that. Brick-and-mortar books sellers weren't thrilled, but there wasn't much they could do about it. In Germany a rather interesting, albeit protectionist, law demands that all sellers have the same prices for the same books supposedly to help smaller retailers keep up with the
large chains which can afford to make massive discounts, even if at a loss. Amazon.de, though, apparently doesn't adhere to this rule and is selling books at a lower price leading to one small book shop suing the company.
The Buchhandlung Schopf bookstore from the town of Brunsbüttel, Germany is suing
Amazon for the price irregularities, citing the aforementioned law. Its owners claim that many customers were demanding that the online retailer's prices were lower than those of the bookstore and that some were choosing to buy at Amazon.
In a capitalist economy, this is what is called "competition" and, it's safe to assume, than many would do away with the whole concept. Fortunately for them, Germany believes that competition is a bad thing when it comes to books and has a government-mandated price-fixing law to ensure that everyone sells at the same price. Unfortunately, it's not the only country to do so, the practice is popular in Europe in particular and has actually gotten Amazon into trouble before, in France.
In this particular case, the issue seems to be that Amazon is refusing to bring its prices in order with those provided by book wholesalers Libri and KNV, which are generally considered the accurate enough and are apparently used by 80 percent of the small bookstores in Germany. The case is scheduled to appear before a Hamburg district court starting January, 2010.