Amazon.com Swallows Internet Movie Database

Merger news: IMDb to Amazon.com. If this sounds like a chess move, it certainly is for a few folks at the top of the Web's food chain. On April 27, the Internet Movie Database became part of Amazon.com, the world's largest online bookseller.

The move will ease Amazon's eventual move into video sales. IMDb, previously featured in an SGHT news story, is an eight-year-old, advertiser-funded Web venture with an enormous and continuously updated repository of in-depth information about film and television. Colin Needham, IMDb's managing director, says that everyone at his company is "excited about becoming part of Amazon.com." Needham considers the merger a good fit because of Amazon's "similar passion for books . . . the Amazon.com team understands and fully supports IMDb's mission of providing the best possible information to movie lovers."

The IMDb acquisition was part of a larger maneuver by Amazon.com. The online giant simultaneously announced its takeover of Bookpages, the UK's largest online bookseller, and Telebook, the German equivalent. Bookpages provides access to 1.2 million book titles in the UK, and Telebook offers a catalog of 400,000 German-language books. Telebook's president, Michael J.G. Gleissner, says the combined operation "will lead to tremendous benefits for the customer." The triple-expansion deal is valued at $55 million.

Amazon.com bills itself as Earth's Biggest Bookstore and runs an expensive television, radio, and print-media ad campaign that has extended its presence beyond the Internet. Its online associates include America Online, Netscape, the @Home Network, Prodigy's Shopping Network, AltaVista Search Service, Excite, and Yahoo!. On the other hand, IMDb is known only to Web-wise movie buffs.

Despite its sales volume, Amazon.com is rumored in business publications to be less than profitable. In addition, it has long been rumored to be a takeover target of bookstore giant Borders. Is there a practical limit to growth? If growth results in a monopoly, there might be a legal limit; consider the widespread animosity among both politicians and their constituents toward Microsoft.

Borders Bookstores and its rival Barnes & Noble are the targets of a lawsuit by the American Booksellers Association. The litigation on behalf of approximately 1000 independent bookstores nationwide accuses the two companies of illegal business practices in cornering the book market, which has pushed locally owned bookstores toward extinction. The ABA claims the resulting trend diminishes the variety of available titles. Will Amazon's takeover of IMDb lead to more or fewer choices for movie lovers?

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