The God of Amazonia

“Amazon are undoubtedly the most important player in the book world today. Whether print books or e-books. They really are the central platform around which the whole publishing industry is operating these days. Publishers think about Jeff Bezos kind of like how they might think about God – as a very distant, inaccessible figure who is all powerful and all knowing.”

That was Michael Bhaskar, digital publishing director at Profile Books, being interviewed on “Amazon’s Retail Revolution“, part of the Business Boomers series, which aired last night (21st April) on BBC Two in the UK and quoted in The Bookseller.

A key statistic that the documentary highlighted: More than half of Britain’s online retail spend goes to Amazon, working out at £70 for every man, woman and child in the country.

I am nearly finished reading (okay, listening to) The Everything Store – Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon  and, though author Brad Stone doesn’t paint Bezos as a Mr Nice Guy, he does reflect a brilliant one. Eminently unlikable much of the time, by the sound of things, and prone to nasty outbursts known as “nutters”, but certainly not one whose success has fallen into his lap. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

The book “shows Bezos to be a sponge for information, and a fearless inquisitor, approaching even seasoned competitors to soak up knowledge from them, explains Adam Lashinsky in his CCN Money article ‘The Uncomfortable Truth about Brad Stone’s Amazon Book’, adding as an aside that “This is one of the many qualities Bezos shares with Jobs, and reading this book is another opportunity to lament that Jobs isn’t still around so that we could watch these two gladiators go after each other.”

All of this and more – especially as I am labouring to help establish a new startup in the book world – is why Jeff Bezos is on my #unlikeablementors list. “If you aren’t up to speed on the Bezos playbook, then you aren’t current with what it takes to start or run or a business,” as Lashinsky puts it.

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New school old school

One of the reasons that I am so excited about the arrival of digital in the publishing world, is that it gives all the old-fashioned values and hand-crafted treasures the breathing room they need.

If I’m buying a book for its content only, then I want that delivered immediately. Make it easy for me. To buy. To carry around. To refer to time and again. Digital has done that.

But there’s a different world of books too. One where it’s about the tactile experience. No, a full-five-sensory experience, actually. Where every little detail counts. And where the related pricing is not a race to the bottom that drives down quality and ups compromise.

Well done, Russell Maret, on truly taking your type to the nth degree.

Gremolata & Cancellaresca Milanese by Russell Maret — Kickstarter.