Tim O’Reilly has posted quotes from an interview with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
“We’ve co-evolved with our tools for thousands of years,” he says, explaining how ease of Kindle buying changes behavior.
“Reading is an important enough activity that it deserves a purpose-built device….It’s a myth that multi-purpose devices are always better…. I like my phone… I like my swiss army knife too, but I’m also happy to have a set of steak knives.”
“I get grumpy now when I have to read a physical book….The physical book has had a great 500 year run, but it’s time to change.”
Hmmm. First of all, anyone who uses the expression ‘swiss army knife’ in a conversation is skating on very thin ice because if he actually owns one he understands perfectly well that those things are not ‘multi-purpose’ at all. And no army in the world carries them. Secondly, if Mr. Bezos is grumpy when he has to read a physical book, he should get out of the bloody book selling business. What a simpleton. During Amazon’s entire history of steady growth as the Wal-Mart of the internet, I have never heard Mr. Bezos utter a single intelligent or captivating remark.
Thirdly, I think it is very clear that Mr. Bezos gets grumpy whenever he has to read anything at all.
Here’s a reprint of a fascinating and well thought out CC-licensed article by Ransom Stephens on the openDemocracy Network about the future of books and publishers. The main thrust of the article is that books will survive mainly in hardback versions, electronic on-demand publishers will take over the bulk of book publishing, this takeover will begin the day Stephen King releases a major novel through an online self-publishing outlet, major publishers will whither and eventually be outmoded, and bookstores will thrive in a healthy relationship with electronic publishing.
Booking the Future
Ransom Stephens (openDemocracy Network)
Though the role of publishing has not changed – connect readers to writers – the revolution will not be led by an established publisher. To date, no established player has prospered through, much less led, the transition to the digitally-based economy. What’s left of the recording industry is still pursuing the fascinating how-to-best-prosecute-our-customers business model. No one was better positioned to profit from the web-based economy than Sears, with its legendary catalog, but Amazon all but killed it. Even IBM barely survived the computer revolution.
For some reason, even when entrenched companies can see the iceberg they can’t turn the ship. In 2000, at the height of the “Napster Crisis,” Time-Warner/AOL’s CEO, Richard Parsons said, “It’s an assault on everything that constitutes cultural expression of our society… And the corporations won’t be the only ones hurt. Artists will have no incentive to create. Worst-case scenario: the country will end up in a sort of Cultural Dark Age.”
Have YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Blogspot, et al reduced cultural expression? Here’s a better example. In 1977, Ken Olson, President of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) which, at the time, built the best computing hardware, said, “There is no need for any individual to have a computer in their home.” Time-Warner/AOL, Sears and IBM survived, but are swimming in the wake of Dell, Google, Amazon, etc.
This image is floating around the internet along with rumors that Apple is ready to unveil a much larger version of its iPod Touch that might be called MediaPad. Apparently, it has a 6-inch HD touchscreen and will have cellular wireless connectivity. So people are writing about this thing as a Kindle-killer. Apple is also rumored to be preparing an ebook reader application that will allow book purchases through the iTunes store.
I think this has been coming for a while and I am almost certain that Steve Jobs will implement the first serious major competition for Amazon.
In what appears to be one of the worst cases of literary censorship in modern United States history, Amazon.com has listed a wide range of books as what the company calls ‘adult material.’ It would appear that they have included any title that contains any material related in any way to homosexuality. By being placed on this ‘adult material list’, the books were essentially stripped away from any search results and made very difficult to find by browsing.
The following is from Amazon:
In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude “adult” material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.
Candlelight Stories thinks that this represents one of the single most moronic statements ever delivered to the public by a prominent book seller.
The company has announced that this was due to a ‘technical glitch’ but there are very few bloggers who seem to believe that explanation. It would seem that plenty of ‘adult material’ was left available and that this effort was focused largely on non-heterosexual material. This is a terrible thing for a major bookseller to do. It’s a form of book banning. It reeks of ultra-conservative fear of ideas or differing lifestyles. Amazon says it was engaged in an initiative to protect its wide customer base by listing certain books as ‘adult material’ so that they would not appear at the top of search results and possibly offend someone. The complaints of someone who is offended by a book for adults showing up in a list of search results should not be listened to for even a moment. It is a very short step from this kind of censorship to a book burning. This is truly indicative of the danger in primarily relying upon a single online source for books.
It would be advisable to immediately move away from Amazon as a source for books. This kind of behavior, though given a flimsy explanation by the company, tends to indicate a general direction or pattern of behavior in a company. Candlelight Stories is looking into fully disengaging from our relationship with Amazon and will not be offering their products through our site. This blog stands fully opposed to discrimination, censorship or book banning of any kind whatsoever.
Once again, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of moving away from Amazon for book purchases. This is a very serious problem and the company’s explanation is insultingly false.
Here are links to several of the best book sellers on the internet:
Barnes & Noble