Big news concerning Amazon's attempt to become a major force in U.S. book publishing: Shelf Awareness has learned that Larry Kirshbaum, editorial head of the company's New York and Seattle adult imprints and children's publishing, is leaving the company early next year and returning to agenting. In connection with his departure, the most ambitious part of Amazon's publishing operations will be scaled back. Already several editorial people have left or been let go, and Amazon has not been a factor in bidding on major books the way it had been just two years ago.
Amazon will continue with its more specialized publishing imprints, such as Thomas & Mercer, which publishes mysteries and thrillers, the sci-fi and fantasy imprint 47North and Montlake Romance.
A year ago, Amazon consolidated their publishing arm under Kirshbaum, so this can't be good news for Amazon's publishing ventures. As always, Amazon won't comment on this, but I suspect that they were surprised by the pushback they got from traditional booksellers, many of whom refused to carry the books.
I don't think this is an outright failure, but it's more Amazon deciding not to waste their resources on a venture that wouldn't have many tangible benefits for the organization. They'll continue with their profitable self-publishing ventures, and they'll presumably still dabble in the genres, which are run in a more straightforward, manufacturing-like model. But it looks like they couldn't just buy their way into publishing.