Amazon Reinforce Their Brand as Publisher

In our report yesterday, we highlighted the analysis of Benedict Evans of media research company, Enders Analysis, who presented a fascinating take on the position and strategies of Google, Apple and Amazon in the world of publishing. Evans was speaking at this week’s Booksellers Association Book Industry Conference in London.

Evans delivered the declaration that was a logistical company operating differing strategies within and around the book publishing world. But not only that – I believe – those strategies are far away and ahead of the ones employed by publishers within their own industry. If there was ever a reason to doubt Amazon’s drive and commitment to establish their brand as publisher as well, it went up in a puff of smoke this afternoon. Those who consider AmazonEncore a tentative toe in the ocean of publishing; a sop and casual PR exercise in extracting profit from the odd self-publisher success story – might need to seriously rethink very carefully their reasons for underestimating what this online retail giant are really doing.
The conservative thinkers will have tutted at their news yesterday of landing bestselling author J.A. Konrath’s latest novel, Shaken, for their AmazonEncore imprint. Like other subtle deals done with Coelho for his e-books, news of Konrath’s defection to AmazonEncore hurt – it would have hurt like hell – not because it is significant in the whole scheme of the publishing industry, but because it is another sinking sign to commercial publishers that the centre of their universe will not hold fast for much longer. this is not longer about the battle waged in the retail book market. This is about the rights to global content and how it is disseminated.

“ today announced a new publishing imprint, AmazonCrossing, which will introduce readers to voices of the world through English-language translations of foreign-language books. The first title being published by AmazonCrossing is Tierno Monénembo’s award-winning novel, ‘The King of Kahel,’ which will be released for the first time in English for readers around the world on Nov. 2, 2010. English-language editions of ‘The King of Kahel’ will be available in print format at and globally as a wireless digital download from the Kindle Store in less than 60 seconds.

AmazonCrossing uses customer feedback and other data from Amazon sites around the world to identify exceptional books deserving of a wider, global audience. AmazonCrossing will acquire the rights and translate the books and then introduce them to the English-speaking market through multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store, and national and independent booksellers via third-party wholesalers.

“As president of the Nobel Committee for Literature, I have seen how recent laureates–Elfriede Jelinek, Imre Kertesz, JMG Le Clézio, Herta Müller–were virtually unknown and unprinted in England and U.S. and only after the Nobel Prize were they able to find readers in English, yet they are in my view equal to anyone writing in English,” said Per Wästberg, President of the Nobel Committee for Literature. “AmazonCrossing deserves praise and support. Such translation and distribution of good literature from so-called minor languages can only stimulate our cultures and inspire writers to widen their horizons.”

“There are many thousands of books out there worthy of being translated and published in English, but that are currently unavailable to us monolingual readers,” said Chad Post, Publisher at Open Letter Books. “The more international books that are available in English, the better. It’s exciting to see a company like Amazon investing in such a worthy cause like AmazonCrossing, and in a way that will definitely help expand the audience for literature in translation.

Tierno Monénembo’s ‘The King of Kahel’ was originally published in France in 2008 and was the winner of the French literary prize, the prix Renaudot, which is awarded to the author of an outstanding original novel published during the current year. Based on the life of Olivier de Sanderval, a man who journeyed to Guinea to build an empire by conquering the hostile region of Fouta Djallon, the book explores how Sanderval braves all dangers to build a railway that will bring modern civilization to Africa. Born in 1947 in Guinea, Monénembo was exiled to Senegal and the Ivory Coast before moving to France to pursue a doctorate in biochemistry. He is the author of nine books and one stage play.”

Commercial publishing has its hands full. While alternative and independent methods of publishing content take a more serious foothold, publishers must begin to re-establish their houses as the first-choice path and method for authors to attain publication, and also establish a new and closer relationship with the consumer through brand identification and the establishment of communities for their contracted authors.
Right now, from where I see it, Amazon, with their latest foreign language imprint, have the most far-reaching hand in the industry and the means to make it work. Along with Google and Apple, all three are sitting at the table with the strongest hands to play.

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