Irrelevant Hacks

Irrelevant musings of a hack blogger

Guy Kawasaki, the Twitter resolution

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So after replying to Guy Kawasaki’s tweet regarding Amazon, he apparently took offense to my response. Here’s his tweet that started this:

And here’s my reply:

While my disparaging comment about him being a “corporate schill”, is a bit off (I don’t know if he’s currently working with Amazon or not), but either way he took offense.

My first reply was regarding the comparison of Hachette as a company, to the act of buying a Kindle and having delivered in less than 24 hours. The debacle of Hachette refusing Amazon’s pricing models and profit distribution is a multi-sided story, where both companies are working on their own self interests, Hachette to get a better deal, and Amazon to offer more products at lower prices. Consumers and Authors are generally the ones who have little voice in these arguments and at most we can protest by buying books from a certain publisher through other stores and websites, and not through Amazon.

I made the rather stupid boast of buying any Hachette book in a book store within 20 minutes, Guy Kawasaki too me on that challenge. Personally, I have no allegance to any company because they’re “better” than another. I agree that Amazon has much wider selection compared to other retailers, but Kawasaki’s original tweet, logically could have been interpreted as possibly an insult regarding the availability of Hachette’s books on Amazon. It’s a stupid thing and could be seen as:

Ha, ha! I can buy a Kindle easily on Amazon and you can’t buy Hachette books because they’re being pissy! Ha!

If Kawasaki wanted to make a productive comment about the Hachette/Amazon debacle, he failed miserably. If he simply compared Amazon’s self publishing vs. traditional publishing as Hachette does, that would have generated a bit more interest and been more on topic. Especially since Amazon did make a direct offer to Hachette’s authors to self publish.

But either Kawasaki’s enthusiasm regarding Amazon reached fanboy levels, or he just wanted to make a point, and failed, one of the responses I received was this:

From product/company evangelism to fanboy nerd rage in 10 seconds flat eh? Other than the Gutenberg Press, I’d that Libraries (public and private) have helped authors orders of magnitude more than Amazon has in it’s short history. Libraries allowed people to read books which were too expensive to own, and promoted literacy. Amazon hasn’t really done anything revolutionary for authors, but more along the lines of evolving a market.

Amazon is simply a logistics company that sells what ever it can store in it’s warehouses. Location of products is saved as is quantity and they organize shipping from the closest warehouse to the buyer in order to lower shipping times and costs. To put it lightly, Amazon is the late 20th/early 21st century equivalent of Sears Roebuck and Marshall Fields in the 19th/early 20th century. They sold through paper catalogs and had one or two major stores/distribution centers. Amazon does the same thing, but completely cuts out the stores and their overhead.

Though, one thing that Amazon has openly revolutionized is the selling of books in their original languages to all parts of the world. Before Amazon, publishers had to get either permission to export their books to other countries, or have them translated and published by local companies. With Amazon, anyone who wanted to read a book in it’s original language could easily buy a copy online. In Europe (continental), it can be incredibly difficult to find a book from an American publisher imported to a local book shop. You usually have to look for special “International” book stores and even then new releases are hard to come by, and old books can be impossible to find. Amazon is a way around that and also around some governmental control on what books can be sold in a country.

But in this discussion, I noticed something regarding Amazon’s self publishing business. While it gives authors a possibility to publish their work without content controls, unless the author is all ready well known, how will people be able to actually find an unknown author’s work? Self publishing either on a generic web page as this (as is the name of this site, being irrelevant in a sea of other blogs, and generally being a hack writer), or via a Kindle ebook, without any publicity pretty much leaves authors in the Styx regarding their brand identity.

Amazon could do more in that aspect. Setting up blogs, online book clubs, or vlogs that promote new authors based on reader’s preferences. While the number of self published books can be more than any group can read, with their new service Amazon Kindle Unlimited, they can possibly use it to push books of new authors to users based on their reading habits and preferences. More voracious readers might receive new author’s books more often so they can be reviewed (more legit than buying reviews also).

But either way, not withstanding the fact that Guy Kawasaki was instrumental in helping companies launch new products and get new companies off the ground. He uncharacteristically showed a blind “fanboy” like enthusiasm and posted a tweet that had no rhyme or reason regarding an important issue among the world’s largest retailer and a publisher. And I accidentally egged him on in this by posting an idiotic challenge that escalated this discussion.

One thought on “Guy Kawasaki, the Twitter resolution

  1. When Kawasaki says Amazon’s done more for authors than anyone else, he was no doubt referring to their Kindle Direct Publishing platform. This is unsurprising, because Kawasaki’s c-authored a book title A*P*E*, a self-publishing manifesto and primer where he recommends self-publishers to focus all their promotional efforts on driving readers to Amazon. Kawasaki is a shill for Kirkus Reviews’ Kirkus Indie service, where self-published authors pay about $400 to get a Kirkus review of their book, though there is no guarantee it will ever be published in their magazine. Several days ago, I sat through a webinar where Kawasaki was demonstrating Canva.com, a cloud-based book cover design app, and he went out of his way to urge indie authors to buy a Kirkus review. Kawasaki acknowledged in the presentation that he is a hired “evangelist” for Canva, just as he was for Google+.

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