Amazon.com has taught readers that they do not need bookstores. Now it is encouraging writers to cast aside their publishers.
Amazon will publish 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and e-book form. It is a striking acceleration of the retailer’s fledging publishing programme that will place Amazon squarely in competition with the New York houses that are also its most prominent suppliers.
It has set up a flagship line run by a publishing veteran, Laurence Kirshbaum, to bring out brand-name fiction and non-fiction. It signed its first deal with the self-help author Tim Ferriss. Last week it announced a memoir by the actress and director Penny Marshall, for which it paid $800,000, a source said.
Publishers say Amazon is aggressively wooing some of their top authors. And the company is gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.
Several large publishers declined to speak on the record about Amazon’s efforts. “Publishers are terrified and don’t know what to do,” said Dennis Loy Johnson of Melville House.
Amazon executives declined to say how many books it had under contract. Amazon has started giving all authors, whether it publishes them or not, direct access to highly coveted Nielsen BookScan sales data, which records how many physical books they are selling in individual markets. It is also introducing the sort of one-on-one communication between authors and their fans that used to happen only on book tours.
Publishers caught a glimpse of a future they fear has no role for them last month when Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire, a tablet for books and other media sold by Amazon. CEO Jeffrey P Bezos referred several times to Kindle as “an end-to-end service.”