Kids On Kindle: Amazon Starts Publishing Children's Books

With the release of its color-screened, picture-book-friendly Kindle Fire, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) is expanding into publishing books for a new audience: Kids. To start, the company’s publishing division is acquiring over 450 children’s books published by the U.S. division of Marshall Cavendish–but it won’t end there.

“We’re excited to acquire the Marshall Cavendish Children’s Books titles and expand our publishing business in this area,” said Jeff Belle, VP of Amazon Publishing, in a statement. “We believe the children’s book market segment presents a unique opportunity to innovate in both print and digital formats. And since many of these titles are not readily available as e-books, we see a chance to connect a terrific group of authors and illustrators with more readers. We also see the potential for similar deals across other categories in the future.”

Amazon’s still-unnamed children’s imprint will be based in New York City under Larry Kirshbaum, the publishing industry vet who joined Amazon this spring to launch an East Coast division. (That imprint is also still unnamed; the release refers to Kirshbaum as VP and publisher of “Amazon Publishing, East Coast Group.”) “We will continue to publish these books in their handsome print editions,” he said in a statement, “and we think customers will love reading these books — most of them never available before digitally — with their families, using the brilliant color touchscreen on the Kindle Fire.”

Children are a central part of Barnes & Noble’s marketing strategy for the Nook Color and, now, the Nook Tablet. B&N’s Nook Kids storefront contains 1,042 titles, including 36 “Read and Play” interactive titles and 404 “Read to Me” titles with embedded audio. Until the launch of the Kindle Fire, Amazon wasn’t a strong competitor for kids’ picture e-books since only Kindle apps, not the devices themselves, supported color. Now, it’s clear, the company will push hard into that category. I doubt it’s long before we see a large, revamped children’s book section of the Kindle Store. For now, there is a “Children’s Books for Kindle Fire” section with 401 titles.

Since Amazon will be not just selling the Marshall Cavendish picture books, but publishing them, it should be able to move quickly to release e-book editions and will not have to wait on the publisher to do so. And as publisher, it can sell the e-books exclusively through its site.

Marshall Cavendish, which has branches in the U.S. and UK and publishes a variety of trade and educational books, said Amazon’s acquisition of its kids’ books allows it to “focus on our core K-12 textbook and assessment books business in the United States, and [grow] our school education publishing business worldwide.”

P.S. Of note in today’s release is the following statement: “Amazon Publishing is the publishing arm of Amazon, and is made up of six imprints: AmazonEncore, AmazonCrossing, Powered by Amazon, Montlake Romance, Thomas & Mercer, 47North, as well as the New York-based division under which MCCB will be housed.”

In an August press release, that statement read, “Amazon Publishing is the publishing arm of Amazon and encompasses the imprints AmazonEncore, AmazonCrossing, The Domino Project Powered by Amazon, Montlake Romance, Thomas & Mercer and the New York-based imprint.” Since then, Seth Godin has ended The Domino Project and Amazon now considers the initiative led by Kirshbaum a larger division, with imprints like the new children’s one underneath its umbrella. In other words, Amazon Publishing’s structure is sounding more like that of a traditional big publishing house.

Also, keep your eyes out for more imprints “Powered by Amazon.”