A clear message was sent to the publishing industry as a whole—both indie and traditional—last May when Amazon announced the formation of its traditional model publishing house Amazon Publishing, followed by the even more startling news that it had lured traditional publishing icon Laurence Kirshbaum to lead it. The message that came through was that the online retailer-turned-ebook forerunner was now a force to be reckoned with in the publishing game.
Now, Amazon once again has announced that a major name in publishing, founder of Atlas & Company publishing and a New York Times contributor James Atlas. He will be editing a new series of biographies, Amazon Lives, and has already signed a number of authors to the project. This shorter titles, in the range of 25,000 to 40,000 words, is currently slated to be a series of twelve biographies, although that number could increase if the demand is there.
While it is important that another well-known figure is working with Amazon instead of against it, the really interesting thing about this new project is both the length of the format and the process by which the books will be released. First, the length of the works is a very non-traditional length for books; it barely surpasses the length of titles that are featured in the Amazon Singles program, which maintains a word count of 5,000 to 30,000 words. Second, the biographies will be released first as ebooks and later on be available in print from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
In an interview with Julie Bosman of The New York Times, Atlas explained that Amazon’s intentions for this program are very benign and the focus really is just on producing the highest quality titles. But perhaps even more interesting is that the ebooks will be available from other distributors besides Amazon. When Bosman asked if the books would be available from Barnes&Noble locations, for example, a spokesperson merely stated that they would be available from as wide a retail setting as possible.