What is Amazon.com Doing?

Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 6/25/2007

When Amazon.com acquired BookSurge and added it to its family of companies, we were asking what they were thinking. There was speculation that rather than warehousing deep backlist titles, Amazon.com hoped to use print on demand technology. Some of this has happened, but, primarily, BookSurge has changed its vision statement very little. There have been some changes, such as, the authors now get paid by Amazon.com rather than BookSurge, but the mission of providing publishing services has remained constant.

In 2005, Amazon.com acquired CustomFlix. In many ways, this is a similar service to BookSurge, but instead of publishing books, CustomFlix publishes DVDs and CDs on demand. Just as BookSurge makes it possible for a publisher to always have his book in print, CustomFlix makes it possible for a moviemaker to always have his movie available.

In 2007, we begin to see that the Amazon.com family of companies is not one big happy family. With the similarities between the two companies, we might expect that the parent company would merge BookSurge and CustomFlix, but we have not seen that. Instead, we are seeing that these two companies are competing against each other. BookSurge offers book-publishing services that run from making a print ready PDF file available to the public as a book to taking a manuscript through the publication process from editing to typesetting and cover design to distribution. This is the heart and soul of their business, but now CustomFlix is offering a service that would seem to fit better within the BookSurge operation. An author can upload book files and CustomFlix will convert these files into a book that can be printed on demand. It is unclear whether CustomFlix intends to do the printing, pass the printing off to BookSurge or have it printed through Lightning Source, but it gives the appearance that Amazon.com is either not committed to BookSurge or has little interest in the operations of its child companies. It should be interesting to see how this, apparent, internal fight unfolds in the months to come.