Amazon looks like it might be trying to beef up its long tail cred with some direct in-house expertise, rather than simply relying on its third-party reseller network. The books giant today announced that it has bought UK independent online bookseller The Book Depository. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The Book Depository, which says it currently sells and delivers books to more than 100 countries, has some six million titles in its catalog, which it dispatches from its base in Gloucestershire, in the UK. Like Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), it works directly with publishers, distributors and wholesalers, as well as third-party booksellers.
It claims on its site to be the fastest-growing bookseller in Europe and has one million customers. The Bookseller reports that it was expected to have turnover of £120 million ($193.5 million) this year.
The release put out by Amazon is thin on details and raises lots of questions, which we’ve put to The Book Depository and will update as and when we get a response.
It’s not clear, for example, whether Amazon intends to integrate the UK-based company into its wider operation, or whether it intends to keep it as a separate brand and even separate operation.
Update: The Book Depository has referred all press questions to Amazon, but it has also told customers via Twitter that it intends to continue operating as an independently. It’s not clear what impact that will have on pricing.
Nor is it apparent whether The Book Depository will continue forward with its current business model focused on the long tail of books. Or, as the company itself describes it, “‘less of more’ rather than ‘more of less'”, a deliberate snub of the bestseller-drive of more mainstream sites.
Another USP for The Book Depository has been its promise of free delivery within its 100-country footprint. It’s unclear whether Amazon would intend to keep that when it integrates the company into its own formidable fulfillment operation.
At a time when booksellers — and notably Amazon itself — are making a huge shift to electronic publishing for devices like e-readers and tablets, The Book Depository is still fighting in the rear guard.
It sells ebooks, of course, but it has also put a lot of effort into print, and aims to sell the “few million titles” that are in print today out of the 30 million that have been published in the English language, even reprinting selected titles that have gone out of print, through its own Dodo Press. It has printed 15,000 titles via Dodo Press to date. These are also available as downloads.