Amazon As Publisher, Publishers As E-tailers

By Jim Milliot
May 09, 2011

In the rapidly changing publishing industry, lines between different parts of the business are blurring like never before and that could not be more clearly seen than in last week’s separate announcements from Amazon and from Bookish, the soon-to-be launched online book platform that has the financial backing of Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Hachette Book Group. Amazon’s fall launch of Montlake Romance pushes the company deeper into the publishing business than it has ever been, while the launch of Bookish gives publishers their first destination site where titles from all publishers will be available for sale.

Although Amazon already operates the AmazonEncore and AmazonCrossing imprints, Montlake is structured more like a traditional publishing imprint that will compete for romance authors against other publishers. And although Amazon was circumspect about its future publishing plans, it has acknowledged its intention to publish in other genres. The company is reportedly looking for a high-profile publisher to head its publishing operation and will have a staff working from a New York office. Amazon has also formed an in-house sales and distribution operation to distribute print editions to physical retailers. Whether retailers, particularly bookstores, will want to sell Amazon titles remains an open question.

Just how retailers figure in the Bookish equation is an entirely different question. According to publishers, the motivation behind Bookish is to build a critical mass of traffic to a site that will then be able to offer recommendations about books based on customer input. In addition to featuring stories about authors and books, Bookish will have promotional materials as well as information about buying books directly from the site in a variety of formats. Books from all traditional publishing houses will be available for sale directly from the site, although links to retailers will also be included. Bookish CEO Paulo Lemgruber said further discussions with the ABA are planned to explore more ways they can work together. ABA CEO Oren Teicher said, while he welcomes the chance to work closer with publishers, he is concerned about the degree to which Bookish will compete with booksellers.

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