Jeff Bezos pitches the Kindle, BookSurge to skeptical mob at Book Expo America

LOS ANGELES, CA — Jeff Bezos pitched the Kindle to attendees at Book Expo America today in downtown LA, and then sat down with Wired editor and author of The Long Tail Chris Anderson for a little chit-chat. The takeaway? Much like Apple, Bezos uses the euphemism "customer experience" for "vertical integration," especially when it comes to the new Kindle and the requirement that print-on-demand publishers work with Amazon subsidiary BookSurge. After the jump, some choice quotes from before Anderson's questions (presumably from his notes, on regular old paper, pictured here) started to veer into extreme audience irrelevance when he brought up EC2 and Bezos' space ambitions.

  • On former White House spokesmonkey Scott McClellan's new book, which won't be back in physical stock until June 9 but is still available on the Kindle for $9.99: "One of the great things about electronic books — they don't go out of stock."
  • Regarding reading on a laptop, Bezos asserted, "You certainly can't curl up in bed with one." Actually, our laptop has been our most faithful sleeping partner in years.
  • Playing up the Kindle's ability to look up definitions on the fly. "I have discovered my vocabulary is not nearly as good as I thought it was ... I was living in a nice fantasy world where my contextual guesses were accurate."
  • Of the 125,000 titles available as both physical books and Kindle e-books, six percent of the sales go to Kindle. Some, including Bezos, buy both a physical copy and an electronic copy — presumably because a Kindle full of books doesn't telegraph just how smart you are.
  • Anderson asked by what factor the number of titles available on Kindle would grow by next year in Bezos estimation. "I wouldn't be happy with 20 million. I'm hard to make happy. Bwahahahaha!" (Bezos' laugh is surprisingly deep and loud for such a small man).
  • Like Amazon's offering of used copies alongside new copies, it didn't change the amount of original sales, only expanded, suggesting it's not a zero-sum game. "Most people bought as many books as they previously bought, and plus they buy Kindle books."
  • Explaining Amazon's strategy of only offering print-on-demand titles printed through BookSurge in its shipping discounts, he said it's because it's cheaper to pack multiple purchases in one box — hence POD books must be printed at Amazon fulfillment centers to qualify.
  • Early in the discussion with Bezos, Anderson kept turning the conversation towards his"long tail" theory. Eventually, Bezos caught on, expounding on how Amazon's whole business model was based on niche content availability being a differentiator — shrewdly buttering up Anderson while subtly claiming credit for the idea.