Books after Amazon

Jeff Bezos, CEO,
Onnesha Roychoudhuri at Boston Review

The man sitting next to me takes out his new Kindle. “How do you like that thing?” I ask. He instantly becomes animated, angling the Kindle toward me so that I can better see its face. “It’s great,” he says. “I can download tons of different books and magazines.” Then, eyeing my hefty, hardback of John Dos Passos’s USA trilogy, he adds, “Cheaper than that, too. $9.99.” There, our conversation ends. I am unsure of where I fall on the Luddite spectrum, but I’ll admit to inhaling the odor of leather-bound volumes. Having moved over a dozen times, though, I’ve also found occasion to curse their weight.So, too, has Jeff Bezos.

Bezos calls the Kindle a response to “the failings of a physical book.” He told attendees of a technology conference in New York: “I’m grumpy when I’m forced to read a physical book because it’s not as convenient. Turning the pages . . . the book is always flopping itself shut at the wrong moment.” His conclusion? “It’s had a great five-hundred-year run . . . but it’s time to change.”

That Bezos is unencumbered by reverence for the physical entity should be no surprise. The book has always been an object of convenience to Bezos, whose principle interest is capturing market share. In 1994 Bezos set out to create a new kind of online business. The specific product was irrelevant; what was important was how it would be marketed, sold, stocked, and shipped. He made a list of the items he could carry, including CDs, videos, computer software and hardware, and books. Books won out because there were so many, and demand was steady. The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) also allowed him to organize and index the millions of books in print. No catalogue or bookstore could possibly have it all, Bezos reasoned, but he could.

Read the full article at The Boston Review …