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Wha? Amazon Just Bought Romance Publisher Avalon Books

This could be an interesting twist to the whole eBook pricing fiasco: Amazon Publishing has acquired long-time romance, mystery and western book publisher Avalon Books.

The online retailer said on Monday that it now has the publication rights to over 3,000 backlist Avalon titles predominantly in the aforementioned genres. Avalon Books was advised on the transaction by Bill Barry who acted as exclusive broker on its behalf. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Avalon Books was established back in 1950 by Thomas Bouregy, and has been the home to "writers specializing in wholesome entertainment across popular genres" ever since. Popular writers include Holly Jacobs, Carolyn Hughey and Carolyn Brown, whose book "The Ladies’ Room" is nominated for a 2012 RITA by the Romance Writers of America.

According to Amazon, books using the Avalon name will be published under the West Coast imprints of Amazon Publishing, including Montlake Romance and Thomas & Mercer. These books will continue to be available in print for booksellers and libraries nationwide.

Ellen Bouregy Mickelsen, Publisher of Avalon Books and daughter of Thomas Bouregy, will be assisting for several months to support a smooth transition for authors. She will also help secure eBook amendments for some of the older Avalon titles whose digital rights are not owned by Avalon, with the intention of bringing these books to a wider audience.

"I’ve been running Avalon Books--which was founded by my father--since 1995, and it is time for me to explore the next chapter of my life," said Mickelsen. "I chose Amazon Publishing because they care deeply about the writers, readers, and categories that have long mattered to our family business and they are uniquely positioned to assure that our titles make the leap forward into the digital future. I am pleased they have asked me to assist during a period of transition to provide continuity and support for our authors."

The news follows a similar move by Amazon made back in December when it acquired the rights to publish hundreds of titles from Marshall Cavendish Children's Books. The list of over 450 titles includes "The Night Before Christmas" illustrated by Gennady Spirin, "Three Little Tamales" by Eric A. Kimmel, "Chalk" by Bill Thomson and "Yellow Star" by Jennifer Roy. The acquisition creates the foundation for Amazon Publishing to further expand into picture books, chapter books and Young Adult novels, Amazon said.

Amazon's acquisition of Avalon Books arrives during a nasty fight over eBook price fixing. The Department of Justice investigated reports of a possible conspiracy between Apple and five publishers and then filed a lawsuit back in April. Three publishers settled out of court while Apple and two others decided to fight against the claims. At the heart of the controversy is a fear that Amazon was commanding the eBook market thanks to its Kindle devices and low eBook prices.

That said, is Amazon looking to get a better foothold of the eBook sector with its current acquisition? The timing doesn't seem coincidental.