Amazon’s Houghton Connection Starts to Pay Dividends

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Um, wrong Amazon...

Amazon’s Publishing’s strategy of selling its books exclusively in the Kindle store has been a two-edged sword: it brands the company, yes, but it also alienates book chains, independent bookstores, and etailers. The company has realized that the blade turned on itself was inflicting a good deal of damage, not least in the author community; authors are reluctant to cast their lot with a publisher that doesn’t get their books into brick and mortar stores or onto the websites of Amazon rivals Nook, Kobo, Sony, Apple and others. (See B&N Hits Amazon Where It Hurts: Authors)

One measure Amazon took to reverse this state of affairs was an alliance with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, an old-line publisher that retains a traditional sales staff, one with relationships with bookstore buyers. (See Look for Amazon Titles in Your Nearest…Bookstore?)

“This arrangement could be win-win-win for Amazon, Houghton and of course for authors,” we wrote. “By teaming up with Amazon, Houghton gets titles that have been pre-selected, pre-edited, pre-formatted and pre-promoted. They just have to add water to make money.” (And does Houghton ever need money – it is currently reorganizing under bankruptcy laws.)

The strategy may be starting to yield results. Publishers Lunch founder Michael Cader reports that, thanks to the Houghton connection, “at least two titles whose US publishing rights are controlled by Amazon are now being carried widely by major ebookstores. The ebook editions for sale are published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt…”

Obviously, two titles does not a revolution make. But their presence in all major e-book retail sites “may be an early indicator that [Houghton’s] New Harvest ebook editions could be carried broadly by ebookstores outside of Amazon, even if some physical bookstores decline to stock the print versions,” speculates Cader.

Richard Curtis

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