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Amazon Expands Partnership with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Today Amazon demonstrated once again that publishers aren’t the gatekeepers anymore; they can be reduced to subcontractors by a wily negotiator. They’ve just signed another deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

HMH has been handling the printing and distribution of about a dozen of Amazon’s titles since last spring, and starting in the next few months that will grow. HMH’s newly named New Harvest imprint is now going to handle print distribution of all adult titles published by Amazon’s East Coast Group. The deal covers all markets in NA aside from HMH is also going to continue to work with Amazon’s Seattle-based imprints, which include AmazonEncore, AmazonCrossing, Thomas & Mercer, Montlake Romance and 47North.

This is  rather curious deal, when you look at it from the viewpoint of HMH. They’re playing second fiddle to aa retailer who is beginning to be loathed in the publishing industry. On the other hand, I’m not sure that HMH really has much of  choice. They’ve reportedly been having money issues for the past couple years, so they might have been more willing than most to sign on with Amazon (read: desperate).

Of course, the other thing that you can takeaway from today’s news: print is still king.

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fjtorres January 24, 2012 um 11:03 pm

Excess capacity brings in *some* revenue, even if its just work for hire. 😉
Reminds me of the GM-Toyota NUMMA deal of decades past.

Richard Adin January 25, 2012 um 4:42 am

HMH has been in financial trouble for a long time. I suspect the deal is a result of its need to bring in capital from any source.

fjtorres January 26, 2012 um 8:03 am

How troubled is HMH?
Might they be a candidate for "deeper" Amazon involvement? 🙂

Right now they are using them as, effectively, a contract manufacturer for pbooks; buying them and managing them in that mode for Amazon and other Digital-First New Publishers would likely improve their prospects and reduce the cost of the services to Amazon (since they like to turn cost centers into profit centers).

Traditional publishers need to overhaul their processes and overhead for the long haul, to account for the diminished print runs of the ebook era, but they won’t do it as long as they can muddle through with the traditional model. HMH, if they’re in deep enough, might be forced to face the music and actually do it first.

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