Well, we’ve been wondering for a while about what Times Internet Ltd (Indiatimes) has been up to. The company now informs us that they’ve made a strategic investment in Webnotions Books India Pvt Ltd, which had launched their marketplace for books in India a couple of years ago, with the site A1Books.co.in. This also explains all the A1books adverts that I have been noticing on the Economic Times website, over the past week. A1Books will provide “over a million book titles” to Indiatimes.com. A couple of things to note:

— Indiatimes has picked up stake in the Indian company, and not Webnotions USA, which was founded by Shinu Gupta in 1995. Webnotions India was established in December 2007, though I do remember meeting Gupta in Delhi at a book fair in September 2006, where he had an A1Books stall.
A Private Treaties Deal?: Here’s the catch – Indiatimes says they will provide “Brand support” to A1Books, and make books from A1Books available at Indiatimes – effectively giving A1Books access to a large number of potential customers. We have contacted both Gupta and Times Internet for more details, and if no cash has exchanged hands, could this be the first Private Treaties deal from an Internet company (albeit from the BCCL group)?

A1Books provides publishers, distributors, importers and retailers a platform to register and sell their inventory. Like Amazon, A1Books also has an affiliate program.

Update: Well, it’s not a deal with Times Private Treaties, but we’ve learned from sources that it is a Private Treaty deal with Indiatimes. So, the Internet companies are now getting into this business of ads for equity. Interesting times, these. At 50% dilution of equity, I sure hope A1Books has taken a substantial amount of inventory.

If you’re in talks or considering a Private Treaty deal with any of the Media companies – whether The Times of India (BCCL), HT Media, Network18, Dainik Bhaskar Group and others, do read our comprehensive launch interview with the CEO Designate of Times Private Treaties.