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Amazon as publisher, publishers as booksellers

May 9, 2011 |  7:34 am

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Amazon, the online retailer, has been making moves toward becoming a publisher. Maybe that's not quite right: It has become a publisher. In 2009, it launched the imprint Amazon Encore, which pulls well-received self-published books from its site and releases them through its wider platform. Amazon Crossing, a translation imprint, and the more traditionally structured imprint Montlake Romance followed in 2010.

As Amazon the bookseller becomes Amazon the publisher, some publishers are starting to see their mandate expand into the role of booksellers. Last week, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Hachette Book Group -- along with AOL/Huffington Post -- announced a joint online project, Bookish, which will sell print books and ebooks directly to consumers.

Publishers Weekly looked at the shifting roles of publisher and bookseller.

[Amazon] 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.

That sounds a little like Goodreads. But Goodreads is about community first, book-selling second -- while Bookish seems to be the other way around. Who knows -- maybe that can work. Maybe it can even work well.

Curious readers can sign up now with Bookish, if they want to see its launch for themselves.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: An Amazon Kindle among books. Credit: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg

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