Follett settles counterfeit lawsuit

The textbook distributor was accused of selling counterfeit books at campus bookstores around the country

Diane Newberry, News Editor

On Oct. 10, the Follett Corporation, which operates the University of North Dakota bookstore, agreed to adhere to Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices established by the Educational Publishers Enforcement Group (EPEG) earlier this year.

This announcement was made as a result of a lawsuit settlement between Follett and the EPEG over allegations that “Publishers routinely (found) counterfeit textbooks being sold in large quantities in Follett’s stores, from Follett’s many online sites, and by Follett’s wholesale operations,” a June 21 press release published by the EPEG said.

It is unclear at this time if the UND bookstore has unknowingly sold counterfeit textbooks. The bookstore could not be reached for comment.

The EPEG is made up of leading American textbook publishers such as McGraw-Hill and Pearson. Their counterfeit allegations in this recent lawsuit were particularly shocking as Follett is the largest distributor of educational materials in America, operating 1,250 campus bookstores across the country.

The lawsuit occurred after months of Follett refusing to sign on to the group’s Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices, which had been adopted by all other major distributors, including Barnes and Noble.

Follett initially defended themselves, saying that the suit was only a ploy to pressure them into adopting the Best Practices, which they denounced in a public statement as “crippl(ing) the campus store’s ability to provide lower-cost course material options,” implying that students would be forced to buy higher-priced texts from the very publishers instituting the guidelines.

Follett’s main opposition to the Best Practices centered on the document’s aggressive approach toward used books from third party sellers.

Ray Griffith, CEO of Follett, said the intense guidelines set out by the EPEG placed an undue burden on distributors, and would likely lead to fewer options for students seeking used books. He acknowledged that counterfeit textbooks are a problem in the industry, but told Publishers’ Weekly he thought the problem called for a “collaborative response” and that it was “unfortunate that the publishers don’t agree with that approach.”

Follett maintained that although some counterfeit books could slip through the cracks, they had faith in their inventory inspection processes. In the lawsuit, the EPEG cited the experience of one McGraw-Hill representative who bought 20 books from a campus bookstore operated by Follett. All 20 were counterfeit copies.

Counterfeit textbooks are typically lower quality in their physical attributes, as well as in their content, than legitimate copies, often missing photos, case studies, or review materials. A statement released by Follett upon adopting the Anti-Counterfeit Best Practices said “the Best Practices have now been endorsed by the largest textbook distributors in the country, and may be viewed as the industry standard in combating counterfeit textbooks.”

Diane Newberry is the news editor for Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]