Irishman sells niche online book retailer to Amazon


AN IRISH entrepreneur is one of the main winners from the deal last week in which Amazon acquired British online book retailer the Book Depository.

Andrew Crawford founded the Book Depository, which was bought for an undisclosed sum. The deal must pass regulatory scrutiny before being signed off.

While Amazon has declined to indicate how much it is paying for the site, analysts suggest the figure could be upwards of £100 million, based on revenue projections. Britain’s Office of Fair Trade has confirmed it will investigate the deal to see if it would lead to “any substantial lessening of competition” in the book market.

A spokesperson for Amazon said Mr Crawford was unavailable for comment.

On Twitter, the Book Depository said the company would “continue to operate independently” following the deal.

“Customers in more than 100 countries enjoy the Book Depository’s vast selection, convenient delivery and free shipping,” said Greg Greeley, Amazon’s vice-president of European retail, in the company’s statement on the acquisition. “The Book Depository is very focused on serving customers around the world, and we look forward to welcoming them to the Amazon family.” was opened in 2004 and focused on niche, non-mainstream and out-of-print books as opposed to blockbuster titles.

The site offers books on a wide variety of topics, including titles like The Future of Union Organisingand An Introduction to the Theory of Aeroelasticity.

Mr Crawford, son of an Irish businessman who ran an international trading business in Africa, created the company after another venture he was involved in – Book Pages – was bought by Amazon in 1997. The Book Depository made a profit of £2.3 million last year, based on sales of £69 million to the end of June 2010. Turnover is predicted to have nearly doubled for 2011.

Separately, a Spanish firm has launched a digital book service called 24symbols, modelled on music service Spotify. The service allows users to access a library of books for free, although they come with adverts in the margins.

Subscriptions are also available, meaning users can pay a monthly fee if they wish to read ad-free. The company hopes to attract 8.5 per cent of its users into this premium model.

“The advantage for users is they can read for free, if they view a bit of publicity,” said Aitor Grandes, chief executive of the small firm.

The service launched last week with 1,000 titles and aims to increase that to 30,000 by the end of the year.