#PubNewsCheat: AMZN Gets Romantic, RH Acquires Smashing Ideas

In Global Trade Talk by Edward Nawotka

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A brief round-up of some of the week’s most notable publishing trade news:

In the US Amazon announced the launch of a new romance books digital imprint — Montlake — which is part of their continued expansion into publishing. They are aggressively hiring in both Seattle and New York and appear to be focusing largely on genre titles. Agents are becoming intrigued by this potential new revenue stream, though booksellers — particularly independent stores — are unlikely to want to sell the books.

That said, Amazon has demonstrated its ability to make their own bestsellers: we reported only yesterday that more than 100,000 Kindle copies of an English translation of the first book in Oliver Pötzsch’s series Henkerstochter [“The Hangman’s Daughter”] have sold since publication last December.

It’s a smart move, considering that fiction continues to dominate the e-book market, accounting for 79% of e-book sales, according to a new report by the research group Codex.

Amazon now accounts for 16% of the US print and digital book market. What’s more, Amazon typically triples its business with a customer once they acquire a Kindle.

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Random House announced this week that it has bought a digital media agency called Smashing Ideas in Seattle. The agency specializes in creating interactive, online content experiences including games, apps, and websites based on stories. They’ve worked with Mattel, Nickelodeon, and Disney. Smashing Ideas also added an ePublishing unit to the company shortly before being purchased by Random House. According to the press release, “Within Random House, Smashing Ideas will be focused particularly in the children’s, educational, lifestyle, and reference areas, as well as on working with Random House publishers to develop new content solutions for the mobile and online marketplaces.”

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US publisher Simon & Schuster said that digital sales doubled in the first quarter of the year, and the company’s sales have been better despite a decrease in print sales.

In addition, several UK publishers have reported huge gains in e-book sales in the first quarter of 2011. Hachette UK says that e-book sales now account for 5% of their trade sales. However Hachette’s parent company Lagardere reported a 9.8% decrease in total revenue for March 2011.

Random House UK has sold two million e-books in the UK, with e-book sales accounting for 8% of overall sales. This growth is attributed in part to a greater availability of digital reading devices in the UK, many of which were given as gifts during the 2010 Christmas holiday. The Publishers Association in the UK also reports e-book sales growth across the industry and says e-books make up 6% of UK publishers’ sales.

Publishers Lunch offered a handy chart listing all the recent figures announced for overall percentage of e-book sales for various publishers:

Hachette Book Group USA 22%
HarperCollins US 19%
Simon & Schuster (World) 17%    $26 million
Harlequin 13.6%    $15.7 million (CA)
HarperCollins (World) 11%
Random House UK 8%
Hachette UK 5%
Simon & Schuster UK 3% (approximately)
About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.