Amazon has been the subject of much debate in the book industry for at least the past decade, and it will continue to be debated long after the stake is lit. The retailer has been the subject of numerous panels at conferences, and on Wednesday night it received special attention.
Slate and New America held a special panel in New York City two nights ago to answer the question: “Will Amazon Lead Us to the Golden Age of Books?”
Luckily for those of us who were unable to attend, the event was recorded and it’s now available online. The podcast can be found on Soundcloud, and you can listen to it below. It’s 48 minutes long. (You can find more details on the panelists over here.)
I’ve listened to it twice, and I’ve found that it is not as easy to summarize or break down into sound bites as that debate held in July. (That event could be summed up as “Die Amazon, Die”.) Slate posted a recap, but I don’t think they captured the nuances of the discussion.
I’m not sure I can either, but I did gain a couple insight. One of my takeaways from this debate, and it’s something I learned not so much from what someone said but the viewpoint he revealed, is that some still see Amazon as Amazon.com – but not Amazon plus all the subsidiaries like Goodreads. (I make this mistake as well.)
That point came to me about two thirds of the way through when one of the panelists remarked that Amazon is really great at selling books but that book stores were still better at discovery, and at book culture. That got me thinking about how online bookselling proving the economic theory about a new sub-optimal competitor disrupting the old by focusing on one area and doing it better. That led me to the understanding that Amazon had bought Goodreads because it knew that Amazon.com alone was great at one thing, selling, and that to really compete with bookstores Amazon needed to also match the discovery and culture aspects as well.
That point is rather off topic for Wednesday night’s debate, I know, and now that I’ve written down I see that it is also obvious. But it was something I learned.
What did you think of the discussion?