“It’s almost always incorrect to blame the past, and it’s easy to do.” —Jeff Bezos
“…if you wanna do more of something, make the friction less. If you wanna do less of something, make the friction more.” —Jeff Bezos
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Jeff Bezos on…
This post is a continuation of Business Insider: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Interview (Part I).
Transcription and emphasis added are my own. You’ll find the video itself at the end of this post.
Henry Blodget, Business Insider: Hachette. You just had a very public famously fight with Hachette. A couple of questions. One over the price which you were allowed to sell their books I believe. First of all, were you surprised about the animosity that was directed at Amazon?
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO: Well. You know, my view is in this incident, and actually in our entire history, I think we have been treated extraordinarily well by the press, by the media, you know certainly by customers. So I have no complaints, you know. I think we have been treated way above average over time and I’m grateful for that. So you know, retailers negotiating and fighting with suppliers is not a new phenomenon. Rarely does it break through into kind of a public fight and mostly it’s not. But, it’s an essential job of any retailer to negotiate hard on behalf of customers, and that’s what we do.
HB: So, if there was no negotiation and you could dictate to everybody exactly what the terms were gonna be, what would the future be for authors?
JB: So, the most important thing when you’re thinking about books. The most important thing is constantly encouraging the kind of incumbent, you know, participants in the book industry to think this way. The most important thing to observe is that you have to draw the box big. Books just don’t compete against books. Books compete against people reading blogs and news articles and playing video games and watching TV and going to see movies. Books are the competitive set for leisure time. You know it takes many hours to read a book. It’s a big commitment and if you narrow your field of view and only think of books competing against books you make really bad decisions. And what we really need to do is to help the culture of long-form reading. And you have to differentiate between short-form reading and long-form reading. If you want a healthy culture of reading book linked things you’ve gotta make books more accessible, and part of that is making them less expensive. Books in my view are too expensive. You know, 30 dollars for a book is too expensive. And so, if you just think that I’m only competing against other 30 dollar books, then you don’t get there. But if you realize you’re really competing against Candy Crush, then you start to say; gush maybe we should really try to be working on reducing friction on long-form reading. And that’s what Kindle has been about from the very beginning. You know, we humans co-evolve with our tools. We change our tools, then our tools change us. And the Internet era, almost all of the tools for reading have been reducing the friction of short-form reading. The Internet is perfect for delivering you know three paragraphs to your smart phone. But the Kindle has been trying to reduce friction for reading a whole book, and it’s working. The visions for Kindle is every book in print in any language all available in sixty seconds. And that’s a multi-decade vision. We’ve been working on it for a decade now and we’ve made huge progress. And so we’re making books easier to get, more affordable, more accessible. It’s a fantastic mission. Kindle team is very dedicated to it, and they’re doing a great job. And that is, you are getting more reading. Friction, if you wanna do more of something, make the friction less. If you wanna do less of something, make the friction more. There’s a particular snack food that you like a lot, and it’s making you fat. Put it on the top shelf where it’s harder to get to, and you’ll eat less of it. And so you know, don’t leave it on your kitchen counter.
HB: Which sounds great until it comes to the author who kind of wants to write a book, but can’t quite their jobs unless they have a nice advance from the big rich publisher who you are quietly demolishing…
JB: No… but the facts are wrong. Publishers are having unparalleled profitability and the book industry is in better shape than it’s ever been, and it’s due to e-books. If you think about how much, the Kindle team deserves a lot of credit for that because they were early, it’s been a little of piracy, and e-books like all other kinds of media, they have a there is a thriving payment mechanism, and then again because they got in early. This is a good news story for publishers and for authors. Some of this is just, it’s very difficult for incumbents who have a very sweet thing to accept change. It’s just very difficult, you know. It’s almost always incorrect to blame the past, and it’s easy to do. We all have these kind of sort fake memories of how great things used to be. Yeah right, before penicillin things were awesome. And mostly things are getting better, undoubtedly there are exceptions. But mostly things have gotten better. We live in a world where, I hope, things continue to get better. And surely, making reading more affordable is not going to make authors less money. Making reading more affordable is going to make authors more money.
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Disclosure: I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company or individual mentioned in this article. I have no positions in any stocks mentioned.