It appears that Amazon is failing to establish itself as a big player in book publishing — at least to the degree expected by many industry watchers. After more than two years as the head of Amazon’s book publishing operations, Larry Kirshbaum will be leaving the company in early 2014, as the retail giant beats a strategic retreat in publishing.
Amazon announced in May 2011 that it was setting itself up as a publisher to compete with major houses such as Simon & Schuster. Kirshbaum, the one-time head of Time Warner Book Group, was working as a literary agent when Amazon tapped him to lead its book operations headquartered in New York City. But, so far, Amazon has been unable to land the next big thing in publishing.
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“I have no idea why Amazon, with all its data and all its talent and all its competitive advantage, couldn’t make it happen,” says Sucharita Mulpuru, an ecommerce and retail analyst at research firm Forrester. “They choked.”
As Mulpuru points out, Amazon has a tremendous amount of data about which books sell and which ones don’t. And although Amazon doesn’t break out revenues from its book publishing operations in its quarterly earnings reports, the group has so far largely failed to crack the code that allows experienced acquisitions editors at major publishers to launch successes year after year.
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