Big Seller Is Playing Part of Big Buyer

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Seattle-based Internet retailer has recently acted less like a big seller and more like a big buyer. In a period of less than two weeks, the company has purchased BookSurge LLC, a print-on-demand company based in Charleston, South Carolina, and SA, an e-book and e-book software company based in France. It has also reportedly been soliciting literary agents in an effort to publish and sell exclusive material from big-name authors.

On April 4, Amazon announced the acquisition of BookSurge, a company that maintains a catalog of over 10,000 titles that can be printed on-demand and offers "inventory-free" book fulfillment to publishers through its BookSurge Publisher Services and to authors through BookSurge Publishing.

"Print-on-demand has changed the economics of small-quantity printing, making it possible for books with low and uncertain demand to be profitably produced," said Greg Greeley, vice president of media products for, in a statement. "BookSurge makes it possible to print books that appeal to targeted audiences, whether it's one copy or one thousand." Greeley continued that, with BookSurge, Amazon would be able to provide its customers an "ever-expanding selection of titles that are not available through other channels."

BookSurge reported a 60 percent gain in revenue last year, and its clients include Penguin USA, the U.S. Government Printing Office, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, according to The Miami Herald. Tim Ghriskey, a money manager for Bedford Hills, NY-based Solaris Asset Management told the Herald that Amazon's acquisition takes "away a potential competitive threat and solidifies Amazon's market share across yet another distribution channel.... It's a unique way of distributing low-volume printings and out-of-print books. This will make it an exclusive arrangement with Amazon."

Following the announcement of the BookSurge acquisition, it was reported in PW Daily that Amazon has been in "negotiations with agents to publish and sell exclusive material from some of the country's biggest authors," allowing it to "use large amounts of desirable, exclusive writing where books can be bought." (Repeated attempts to contact Amazon to confirm this report went unanswered.) PW posits that "the program, along with Amazon's new ability to print books via BookSurge positions the site perfectly for a big, Riding the Bullet-like blowout, where an author is published and sold exclusively."

On Friday, April 15, the Dallas Morning News reported that, on March 30, Amazon had purchased SA, a Paris, France-based company that sells e-books and the software for reading e-books on handheld computers and wireless phones. Amazon spokesperson Patty Smithy told DMN that the company felt Mobipocket was a "smart fit for us" though would not explain how it would be integrated with Amazon's operations.

According to the USA Today, "Mobipocket gives Amazon an in-house team of engineers who can help it diversify and expand e-books and e-documents it already offers using software from Microsoft and Adobe Systems."