It's been a while, but (NASDAQ:AMZN) made an announcement today that harks back to its original bread and butter -- books.

Amazon has announced that it will acquire BookSurge, a provider of print-on-demand services. By providing print on demand, Amazon will be able to get copies of out-of-print books as well as foreign-language titles. The service also lets authors self-publish their works.

It's an interesting time to delve into this arena. Given the democratic nature of the Internet and its ability to provide products and services on an as-needed basis, such a move has probably made sense since the year was born. On the other hand, you can't ignore that it's been suspiciously lacking until now.

Rival Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) began providing such a service way back in 2000. At that time, the company was quoted as pointing to the 1 million-plus titles that were out of print, and CNET cited a Barnes & Noble executive as saying, "This is an enormous opportunity to make the words 'out of print' obsolete, and that's what we plan to do." (It seems to me that in the years since then, there hasn't been much said about the service.)

Today's press announcement from Amazon echoes those very words. "Thanks to print-on-demand, 'out of print' is out of date." That's a pretty intense deja vu.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with a service that caters to the market for rarity; it's arguably one of the areas in which the Internet excels, given the recommendations that often point users in directions that they would never have found in the bricks-and-mortar world. Beyond the market for out-of-print books, you could argue that vanity publishing, which allows authors to publish for a fee, might be a successful venture, and it would segue well into Amazon's selection of books.

Will Amazon enjoy a particularly robust stream of excess revenue? Although I wouldn't underestimate the zeal of would-be authors to get published or readers on a quest to get an out-of-print book -- or Amazon's power to leverage all parts of its services -- it seems that this will likely be a quiet aside for the Amazonian giant. is a longtime Motley Fool Stock Advisorpick. To find out more about the service, click here.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.