How Amazon Publishing Will Get Its Books Into Barnes & Noble
by Laura Hazard Owen (paidContent)Booksellers should not expect to be visited by a friendly Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) Publishing sales rep anytime soon. Rather, in an agreement announced today, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish the print versions of all of the adult titles from Amazon Publishing’s New York-based division (run by publishing industry vet Larry Kirshbaum), and will distribute them everywhere in North America outside of Amazon.com.
Best of all from Amazon’s point of view: Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) will not get a penny from the e-book sales of Amazon Publishing titles.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Mariner trade paperback imprint already publishes the print editions of around a dozen Amazon Publishing titles, such as The Hangman’s Daughter. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is creating a new imprint, called New Harvest, for the print versions of the Amazon Publishing East Coast titles—by authors like Tim Ferriss, Penny Marshall, Deepak Chopra and, most recently, James Franco.
“Our goal has been, and remains, to introduce authors to as many readers as possible,” said Larry Kirshbaum, VP and Publisher of Amazon Publishing’s East Coast Group. “This new agreement with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt enables us to broaden our distribution and get our books into more readers’ hands.”
Amazon recently acquired the rights to about 400 children’s books published by Marshall Cavendish, but although those titles will be part of Larry Kirshbaum’s East Coast division, they are not included in the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt deal.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is headquartered in Boston and also has offices in New York, is not a big six publisher but it is well-known (it is the publisher of Curious George, JRR Tolkien and the “Best American…” series) and publishes a few hundred adults and children’s trade titles per year, plus educational titles. The company averted possible bankruptcy in 2010 by restructuring its debts. In November 2011 it announced it would lay off about 10 percent of its staff, the Financial Times reported.
Larry Kirshbaum’s East Coast division, which seriously needs a better name than “Amazon Publishing’s East Coast Group,” is aiming at a general audience and bookstores remain a major place of discovery of new titles. Amazon’s agreement with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt appears to be a workaround to Amazon’s Barnes & Noble problem: Barnes & Noble has said it will not carry any titles in its bricks-and-mortar stores that it cannot also sell as e-books. If Amazon were distributing its own print titles and did not capitulate to Barnes & Noble’s requirement, Penny Marshall’s memoir would likely not be appearing in your local Barnes & Noble anytime soon even though a print-book-buying audience is likely to contribute to a large portion of her sales. (For every Laverne & Shirley fan who owns an e-reader, there’s surely another who doesn’t, or who would like to give this print book to their grandma for Mother’s Day. )