High-profile Amazon Hire Coincides With Book Expo America, Signals Publishing Industry Power Shift

Enjoying a partnership with the BlogWorld and New Media Expo this year, publisher’s conference Book Expo America (BEA) witnessed a hiring on May 24 that’s sure to spawn posts and Tweets as well as articles and editorials.

The announcement that Amazon had hired publishing industry veteran Laurence Kirshbaum, came just in time for the BEA, which is co-located with BlogWorld at New York City’s Javits Center, and runs until May 26.

Kirshbaum, currently a literary agent with decades of experience in the industry, was most notably the CEO of what was Time Warner Book Group. The outfit has since been acquired and renamed Hachette Book Group.

The New York Times reported May 23 on an Amazon email to agents stating that, effective immediately:

“Larry [Kirshbaum] will be building out a publishing team in New York and will found new imprints under the Amazon Publishing umbrella, with a focus on acquiring the highest quality books in literary and commercial fiction, business and general nonfiction.”

And an Amazon spokesperson confirmed Kirshbaum would be stepping in as Vice President and Publisher of Amazon Publishing’s New York Office.

The news has ruffled some feathers in the publishing world. Many see the recruitment as a further effort on Amazon’s part to gain immediate domination over mainstream publishing.

TheBookSeller.com has shared some foreboding sentiments from industry members, including mentions of a “’dampening’ effect on competition,” as well as their own dark prognosis that Amazon “would not have brought Kirshbaum on board if they were not looking to go for some of the biggest fish in the frontlist fiction and non-fiction ponds.”

Going even further, Melville House Publishing’s Dennis Johnson asks why such a move “isn’t illegal” considering the existence of anti-trust laws.

It’s interesting to note that all of this is unfolding in the midst of the joint BlogWorld and BEA conventions, as it is just another reminder that, as separate as they seem, the worlds of new media and traditional publishing are increasingly converging.

The fact that “the news spread swiftly around the Javits Center” on the opening day of both events is just a concrete example.

About Emily Wilkinson

Emily Wilkinson is a Montreal writer and editor who recently joined ReveNews.com. Her experience comes largely from her work at print publications like La Scena Musicale, where she alternated between positions as content manager, copy editor and journalist.
She believes in the importance of strong writing, be it in journalism or in other media, like blogging or even social networking. Her prerogative: though language will and ought to evolve, a good writer need never sacrifice the communicative power of text that is written with thought and care, whatever the venue.
Find Emily on Twitter @EditorWilkinson

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