Amazon turns publisher, finally. Encore!

May 14, 2009


Amazon have just announced AmazonEncore: “a new program whereby Amazon will use information such as customer reviews on to identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors with more potential than their sales may indicate.” They’re now a publisher.

It’s been a while coming, but some of us have been predicting this move for some time: Amazon have finally made it to the penultimate step on the publishing chain. I say penultimate, because although they are now, by any definition, a publisher, they still appear to be cherry-picking from existing books rather than seeking out their own authors.

Their opening salvo comes in the form of Legacy, a YA fantasy novel by sixteen-year-old novelist Cayla Kluver. Legacy was originally published by Winsconsin-based Forsooth Publishing, in paperback in April 2008, when it garnered 5-star reviews and generated a teen cult. Amazon have noticed this, so they’ve bought the rights, and are putting out a hardback, Kindle and audio editions across their channels, as well as swinging the full weight of their not inconsiderable publicity machine behind it.

This is all very interesting, and we’ll see where they go next. Knowing Amazon: upwards and outwards. Those who suggest they’ll just keep picking stuff up from the little guys hasn’t been paying attention. In the last five years Amazon have, in addition to dominating online bookselling, bought a book social network, a major print-on-demand supplier, a complete end-to-end self-publishing system, pretty much the entire used books marketplace, the biggest audiobook distributor, the best iPhone ereader, and designed, built and delivered the only truly mass-market dedicated ereading device, with a proprietary format that sets them up to be the iTunes of eBooks.*

It’s big, it’s scary, it’s Amazon. But the publishing industry is under so many different pressures at the moment, this is unlikely to be as big as it could be: Amazon don’t want to annoy their major suppliers, not too much, and not yet. They will though, and by that point, they’ll be past caring. Like Google with their ebooks programme, they’ve been given so much leeway for so long, they think they can do whatever they like, and chances are, they’re right.

Still, look on the bright side: what this does suggest is that while corporate publishers will be – are – fighting for their lives, there’s still a lot of scope for the little guys, the ones who’ve always found the interesting stuff first. AmazonEncore, as it stands now, is a very good way of making out on a little book with a lot of promise, as Ms Kluver and Forsooth have been the first to find out. Here’s hoping.


* Updated this list as people remind me about all the other stuff Amazon own…

P.S. Amusingly though, the first result for “kindle” on is the Sony Reader.


  1. Great post. A few weeks ago – before Amazon also bought lexcycle – I read an interesting interview, I think with neelan choski, the CEO of lexcycle. He appeared, surprisingly given the outcome, to be warning of the power of Amazon. I think it was him, and the quote that stuck with me was along the lines of,”Amazon is a strategic decision away from being a publisher.” looks like that decision has just been made, publicly.

    Comment by peter collingridge — May 14, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  2. hang on, hang on – you cannot, by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, group amazon with the “little guys”. Make no mistake, this is a large corporation, with all the good and bad that comes with any large corporation.

    (disclosure/bragging: I am the recipient of Amazon’s largess in the form of the In Canada First Novel Award. This does not make me any less/more a friend of Amazon)

    Comment by michel basilieres — May 20, 2009 @ 6:39 am

  3. Michel: I’m not. The little guys I refer to are the small publishers acting as finders for Amazon, as they always have, to some extent, for the larger publishers.

    Comment by James Bridle — May 20, 2009 @ 8:49 am

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