So Amazon has decided to launch a number of publishing imprints. I don’t understand this.

Specifically, I don’t understand why Amazon needs to do it. Well-known authors are already turning down very attractive New York publishing deals in favor of Amazon’s vanilla-flavored, non-traditional self-publishing tools. With those tools, and its vast self-publishing marketplace, Amazon was already, it seems to me, on the way to drinking everybody’s milkshake.

So why this move?

Is it about ancillary rights? Do they wish they could have owned the inevitable Trylle movies? Surely not. Writers generally control ancillary rights even under the most annoying of traditional book contracts (exception: the comics/graphic novel field, which, as usual, is about one century behind the rest of the world).

Does Amazon imagine it’s necessary to invest, in individual books and authors, the kind of promotional and marketing budgets associated with traditional book deals, in order to beat back the iPad and Nook and their own self-publishing programs? That sounds like a strong possibility behind their motivation. A self-publishing marketplace might throw up an accidental superstar or two, but it takes real money to create a large stable of well-known celebrity authors out of scratch. I can see them thinking that, anyway. I don’t necessarily agree. My guess is that the power of the Amazon website itself is more than enough to accomplish this — but I’ve been known to be wrong.

And what are the advantages to authors? I note that J. A. Konrath, self-publishing advocate and Kindle success story, is one of the launch authors for the Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s new “thriller” imprint. I can’t imagine that the deal is very similar to a traditional book publisher’s deal, if Konrath — who has been highly critical of traditional book publisher’s deals — is involved. On the other hand, though, if he’s already doing so well, what is the advantage of helping Amazon morph into a version of what Amazon was handily destroying?

I’m not angry or weird about this. Please don’t take this as a flame. I just don’t understand! Help me understand! I thought the world was going in one direction, and now it seems to be going in the other.

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