In welcome news for some that Amazon isn’t having everything its own way, Laurence J. Kirshbaum has left Amazon Publishing after just over two years in the saddle, having failed to crack the New York publishing world on behalf of the Bezos Behemoth. Along with him, a number of other more junior staffers will leave Amazon Publishing too, as the whole operation is scaled down. Hard copy printing just hasn’t worked so well for the Seattle titan, it seems.
Shelf Awareness, a platform not always noted for a 100-percent positive reception of Amazon, first broke the news, and pointed to the decision by Barnes & Noble, later copied by other book and supermarket chains, not to carry Amazon Publishing titles as a main failure factor. That piece of sour grapes doesn’t strike me as an especially sensible response to Amazon’s move. Amazon Publishing didn’t exactly manage to bring any mold-breaking titles to market since 2011, but all the same, if they had done, B&N would basically have been depriving its customers of some key reading choices, and driving them to shop online with Amazon instead. I’m sure that in a few cases, that is what actually happened. Yeah, sounds like a really bright move to me.
And of course, you can see the harm it all did in Amazon’s latest numbers. Sales escalating, and Amazon hovering at the break-even level only in order to fund further growth rather than deliver commensurate profit, and carry on eating B&N and the other refuseniks’ lunch, dinner and supper. Really speaks volumes (no pun intended) for the relative merits of their respective business models, doesn’t it? All Amazon will have to digest is a little lost face, fine, but I don’t see this outcome harming its growth at all, merely closing off an avenue with little to give it, while driving it back down the highway to the future. What well-established blue-blooded New York publishing house wouldn’t give its swank offices and brownstone milieu to see quarter-on-quarter sales growth figures like Amazon has seen?
And I’m sure there are a few Jonathan Franzen-esque types who will be glad that Amazon won’t get to trample its dirty feet around the Manhattan citadels of high culture. I’d have more respect for that if I wasn’t already persuaded that the best literature of the coming decades is liable to come out of the self-publishing or digital community, not the increasingly fossilized New York publishing establishment. Their values weren’t ever that high-minded or their doors that open anyway. Jennifer Weiner characterized their system as “the Times as an institution and Sam Tanenhaus as a gatekeeper.” Amazon is better off without them..