Bezos: 'books are too expensive'

Bezos: 'books are too expensive'

To maintain a “healthy culture of long-form reading”, e-books must be cheaper, Amazon founder and c.e.o. Jeff Bezos has said.

In an in-depth interview with Business Insider, Bezos also spoke about his company’s recently resolved dispute with Hachette Book Group in the US, and said that Amazon had been “treated extraordinarily well by the press and the media” over its history.

Bezos said that making “reading more affordable is going to make authors more money”, and that publishers “are having unparalleled profitability, and the book industry is in better shape than it ever has been, and it’s because of e-books”.

“The Kindle team deserves a significant amount of credit for that, because they were early, they got ahead of it,” he continued.

He compared the advent of e-books to the creation of penicillin, saying: “We all have these fake memories of how great things used to be. Right, before penicillin things were awesome. There are exceptions. But mostly things have gotten better, and we live in a world where I hope things continue to get better. Surely making reading more affordable is not going to make authors less money. Making reading more affordable is going to make authors more money.”

In the internet era, Bezos said, it was important to note that books were competing against “people reading blogs and news articles and playing video games and watching TV and going to see movies”, and that reading a book was a “big commitment”.

“If you only think about books competing against books, you make really bad decisions,” he continued. “You're competing against Candy Crush and everything else. If we want a healthy culture of long-form reading, you have to make books more accessible. Part of that is making them less expensive. Books, in my view, are too expensive. $30 for a book is too expensive. If I'm only competing against other $30 books, then you don’t get there. If you realize that you’re really competing against Candy Crush and everything else, then you start to say, 'Gosh, maybe we should really work on reducing friction on long-form reading.' That’s what Kindle has been about from the very beginning.

“In the internet era, almost all of the tools for reading have been reducing the friction of short-form reading. The internet is perfect for delivering three paragraphs to your smartphone. The Kindle is trying to reduce friction for reading a whole book. It’s working.”
He said his multi-decade vision for the Kindle was that “every book, every imprint, in any language” would all by available in 60 seconds.

Speaking about Amazon’s dispute with Hachette Book Group, Bezos said: “My view is that in this incident and actually in our entire history, I think we have been treated extraordinarily well by the press and the media — certainly by customers. I have no complaints. I think we have been treated way above average over time and I’m grateful for that. Retailers negotiating and fighting with suppliers is not a new phenomenon. Rarely does it break through into a public fight and mostly it's not. It’s an essential job of any retailer to negotiate hard on behalf of customers. It's what we do.”