Amazon Publishing head Larry Kirshbaum to depart

What does it mean when the high-powered head of an ambitious start-up publishing house leaves?

That's what the publishing business is asking Friday after the news that Larry Kirschbaum will leave Amazon Publishing on Jan. 17, 2014. Kirschbaum, was best known as head of Time Warner Book Group, a position he left in 2005 after working at the company for more than 30 years. He had spent time as an agent, and he'll return to that.

In an official statement, Amazon wrote, "Larry joined us two and a half years ago and has been instrumental in launching our New York office, including our New Harvest partnership, and establishing our children’s book business. We’re sorry to see him go, and wish him the best of luck as he returns to life as a literary agent."

Amazon has 11 imprints and, at last count, 27 editors on staff. Some are run out of Seattle -- generally, the genre-based imprints -- while others are tied to the New York office that Kirschbaum opened. 

What's next? Publishers Weekly reports "Amazon’s genre publishing program will not be affected by Kirshbaum’s departure although the future of the trade operation is uncertain. Among the issues confronting the publishing program has been poor distribution into bookstores."

Amazon counters the claim that there are plans to scale back. In its official statement, the company says, "Our New York office will continue to expand, as our overall publishing business grows. In fact, we will be announcing new imprints to launch in New York soon." 

Amazon announced that Daphne Durham will take over some of Kirshbaum's responsbilities, having already stepped into the role of publisher for adult trade and children's publishing. Durham has been with Amazon since the early days of the company; she joined Amazon in 1999.

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