NEW YORK (AP) Some of the nation’s largest online booksells and libraries say they are open to a new era of e-book sales, opening to all books online through a joint venture with Amazon.
The move marks a major shift in how book buyers are shopping online and could boost the fortunes of struggling bookstores that have struggled to keep up with surging demand.
It also could open up some valuable shelf space in a marketplace that has been hit by the recession and an influx of new readers.
The partnership with Amazon is the latest sign of the shift in digital bookselling’s fortunes.
The companies have had a fraught relationship, with Amazon saying the move would only serve to harm its customers.
Now, with a renewed interest in e-books, the companies could work together to make a splash.
In announcing the joint venture, Amazon said it is seeking to offer more than 4,000 titles from U.K. publishers, including The Times, The New Yorker and HarperCollins.
The Amazon-owned online bookstore chain Borders said it would work with the partnership to offer a variety of titles, including “The Little Prince” and “The Best American Poetry.”
Amazon, which has become the primary e-reader vendor, has long sought to diversify its e-commerce offering, particularly by partnering with retailers and other publishers.
The company has a history of working with publishers on book titles and other digital-only offerings.
But as more people have been using their computers to browse the web, some publishers have been losing business.
The online-only market has been hurt by a shortage of ebooks, as well as an influx in other kinds of eBooks, which typically are digital copies of books, but are often purchased online for less than the retail price.
The deal with Amazon, announced Wednesday, could be a boon for the e-publishing industry, which accounts for about 7 percent of Amazon’s $600 billion annual revenue, said Michael A. Smith, a professor of sociology at Emory University in Atlanta.
The new online book stores, including Borders and Indiebound, could help to bolster the ebooks market, he said.
“Amazon’s going to be a major beneficiary of this deal, which will allow them to get a bigger slice of the market and more value,” Smith said.
Books are a huge part of the bookseller’s business model.
In the past, most bookselling has been done by hand, but the digital revolution has shifted that model.
Digital books, along with e-readers and other e-retailers, have made bookselling much more efficient and accessible.
With the advent of digital books, authors are also able to make their books available for free on the Internet.
The New York Times, for instance, can sell books on Amazon for as little as $2.99.
But some books cost as much as $3.99 to $5.99 for a limited edition, or more than $10.
The bookseller also can offer discounted books for sale on Amazon.
“It’s a huge change,” said Sam Steinberg, who runs a company called A Bookshop Now.
The digital bookstores, in turn, can also become a platform for new booksellings to flourish, said David L. Mays, author of The Bookshop of the Future.
“With more and more people using their phones, iPads and laptops to read the web and to buy books, bookstores have been struggling to make ends meet,” he said in a statement.
“This deal is an example of Amazon becoming a part of this community of bookshelves.”
The move could also help to help Barnes & Noble, the nation, largest independent bookseller, said Paul J. Zappala, a Barnes & Nobles spokesman.
The publishing company has struggled to stay competitive in the digital market, which is dominated by Amazon and its rival, Google.
The last few years have seen a flood of digital-first books, as Amazon and other companies have begun making their own titles available on the Web.
“The shift from a traditional bookstore to a digital bookstore is a positive one,” Zappal said.
He also said that Barnes & Norton and other independent bookseller chains were struggling.
“We are in a very precarious position,” he added.
The Times said that the bookstores would begin offering e-sales at their New York and Los Angeles locations by the end of the year.
“As a result of this agreement, we are looking forward to serving millions of customers in the near future,” a statement from the Times said.
The statement did not offer any details about the price the new books would be offered at.
The agreement with Amazon also means that the Times will continue to offer its New York City store at a discount to the rest of the country.
The sale of books on the New York website will still take