In Depth

Amazon.com Launching New York Book Publishing Firm--Internet Heavyweight Hires Industry Veteran Larry Kirshbaum to Lead the Unit, Which Will Publish Both Print and e-Books.

By Matthew Flamm
Crain’s New York Business

After having dipped one toe after another into the pool of book publishing, online retail giant Amazon.com will go all the way with the launch of a New York-based publishing house this summer. The yet-to-be-named imprint will publish in both print and e-book formats.

According to newsletter Publishers Lunch, which broke the story Monday morning, Amazon has picked industry veteran Larry Kirshbaum to head the operation. The former chairman of the Time Warner Book Group, 67-year-old Mr. Kirshbaum has been running a literary agency in recent years, but is still a high profile figure in the industry with close relationships to many authors.

Amazon has lately been launching digital imprints for genre titles, like Montlake Romance for romance novels and Thomas & Mercer for mysteries and thrillers. But the new imprint will be a general interest trade publisher that will put out literary and commercial fiction and non-fiction, according to a note Amazon Publishing Vice President Jeff Belle sent to literary agents Sunday night.

Amazon had been looking for several months for a publisher to launch a New York operation, according to Publishers Weekly and to executives who were contacted by the firm. High on its wish list was someone with connections to bestselling authors that the new imprint could effectively poach, helping to jumpstart its business and make books from the company a must-have even for brick-and-mortar players that consider Amazon their archrival.

One stumbling block for any Amazon imprint will be convincing Barnes & Noble and independent booksellers to carry its titles. Amazon has occasionally partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for print editions of its original ebooks, and may continue to do so, according to Publishers Lunch.

An Amazon spokesperson could not be reached.