Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Amazon: Love Them, Hate Them, Let's Follow the Money

by Ted Treanor, publishing consultant, The Consulting Garage

So what’s Amazon up to? Let’s follow the money trail. In 2005 I remember becoming acutely aware of their strategy when they bought BookSurge and Mobipocket in one month. It was a clear message to both the digital and traditional book publishing industry that Amazon was investing in their vision of the future of book publishing. They were putting their money on future growth areas in the book industry by demonstrating a commitment to digital books and print-on-demand technology and services. Here is an awesome link to a visualization of Amazon’s entire history of investments in buying companies across all industries. Many of their acquisitions and investments are in technology infrastructure that supports their book business and other industries as well.

Bookpages (announced April 27, 1998) – Bookpages was one of the largest online bookstores in the United Kingdom. It became Amazon’s online UK store.

Telebook (announced April 27, 1998) Telebook, operating through its ABC Bücherdienst subsidiary, was Germany’s number one online bookstore –It became Amazon’s German online store.

Audible.com (announced Jan. 31, 2000) An investment of millions of dollars, for 5 percent ownership, which featured content from newspapers and magazines, and books on audio. For promoting audio.com, Amazon would receive $ 30 million over three years.

BookSurge LLC (announced April 4, 2005) BookSurge print-on-demand book printing and fulfillment from Charleston, South Carolina with growing global relationships.

Mobipocket.com (acquired April 2005) – Mobipocket, a very popular French ebook company that specialized in ebooks for mobile devices, with both reader and server software.

Brilliance Audio, Inc. (acquired May 23, 2007) –Brilliance Audio is one of the largest audiobook publishers in the USA.

Shelfari (acquired August 25, 2008, Shelfari book based social network site from Seattle. Amazon originally was an investor in Shelfari in February, 2007.

Audible.com (acquired April 2008) Audible is the online audio-book provider was purchased by Amazon in for US$300 million and assumption of liabilities.

AbeBooks (acquired Dec 2008) Purchased for between $110-$120 million. AbeBooks is an online marketplace for books, with over 110 million primarily used, rare and out-of-print books listed for sale by thousands of independent booksellers from around the world.

-Bookfinder.com (subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008)

-LibraryThing (a 40% share) (subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008)

-Justbooks (subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008) -IberLibro.com (subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008)

-Gojaba.com (subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008)

- FillZ (listing-management service, subsidiary of AbeBooks, acquired Dec 2008)

Lexcycle Inc. (acquired April 27, 2009) This is the company behind Stanza, an electronic book reading application for the iPhone and iPod.Booktour (Seed capital investment in April, 2009)

The Chairman of Booktour is author and journalist Chris Anderson, who is the editor in chief of Wired Magazine, and the writer of the book The Long Tail and his 2009 book, Free. The company lets authors create profile pages where they can communicate with fans, and provide a schedule of events.
You can bet that there will be more investments to come…

There are many other Amazon investments in customer enabling technologies, and to improve the customer experience for any product or service through the ever reaching and growing Amazon.com. It is not just B2C, but B2B relationships, too, such as hosting and in the cloud computing services. They are building a comprehensive online shopping platform for entire verticals and horizontals and they make money selling directly to the consumer, or helping merchants sell to their customers, and more recently by supporting supply chain relationships. No small vision here.

Whether you see Amazon as a friend or a threat will depend on your market position. It will also depend if you and your company have a strong vision and an ongoing commitment to investment in the future. Where do you weigh-in?

1 comment:

  1. Tim - A good and compelling analysis (as usual). Personally, I alternate between fear of Amazon and wondering what I would do without them...