Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reading the E-Leaves With Amazon's Bezos (Wired)

Condé Nast Portfolio contributing editor Kevin Maney interviewed Bezos before a packed auditorium at New York University's Stern School of Business:

Portfolio: Let's talk about the Kindle. What do you want it to be?

Bezos: Any book, in any language, ever in print should be available in less than 60 seconds. We worked on it for three years. It's been selling out since being released.

Portfolio: You sold how many?

Bezos: You asked that so innocently, but you know I'm not going to answer. We have a long-standing practice of being very shy about disclosure, and I'll stick to that practice. The Kindle has substantially exceeded our expectations.

Portfolio: Every effort at e-books has failed. Why should this one work?

Bezos: We decided we were going to improve upon the book. And the first thing we did was try to determine the essential features of a physical book that we needed to replicate. The No. 1 feature is that it disappears. When you're in the middle of reading, you don’t notice the ink or the glue or the stitching or the paper — all of that disappears, and you're in the author's world. Most electronic devices today do not disappear. Some of them are extraordinarily rude. Books get out of the way, and they leave you in that state of mental flow.

Portfolio: How do you improve on that?

Bezos: We looked at things that physical books could never do. One of them is that you can look up any word that you're reading. It used to be that if I came across a word that I didn't know, I guessed from context. I'm astonished at what a bad guesser I am. Now that I’m looking up the words, I'm like, "Huh. Really?"

(more . . .)

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