Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Hero Jeff Bezos

Internet start-ups and garages go together like soup and sandwiches, at least in regions where the climate is temperate most of the year. I only recently learned that Jeff Bezos followed the same pattern, setting up his fledgling firm in his garage. In fifteen years the founder of Amazon.com became one of the richest men in America and became Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

So what is it that I like about this guy? Well, besides the fact that he lives in Albuquerque, this business he founded is all about books. I’m a reader, and we have book shelves in every room of the house. In fact, Cicero once said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Books are great. What would life be without books?

Jorge Luis Borges said that he imagined that Paradise would be like a library. Well, with the advent of the Internet, and Amazon.com, as long as we have a modem and power, we can tap into a little stream of that Paradise any time we want.

Even before the Kindle I have been a strong advocate of Amazon.com. When I hear someone tout a new book, I go to Amazon.com to see what other readers have been saying about it.

The site has so many brilliant features. They are a variety of ways it helps you find more books that you will like. One is, "People who bought this (the book you are looking at) also bought these." You don't get that at a conventional book store. And then based on your buying history the site makes recommendations to you as you approach the checkout.

In fact, everything about the site is easy. They remember your shipping address and the addresses of friends or family you've shipped things to. They remember your card info if you want them to. And they make it so very easy to find what you are looking for. Easy is the operative word here.

And as I've said before, that's just what the Kindle was when I got mine earlier this year. Easy.

A Henry Ward Beecher observation comes to mind here. He said, “Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?” You got that right. And Amazon.com plays on that weakness in another way. You don't like the price of a book? There are five, ten or forty used copies available at very low prices, sometimes for as little as a nickel. Many times over the years I have recommended certain out of print books to people that were still available by means of this "swap meet" style of selling used merchandise.

What I like most of all, and why Jeff Bezos is my hero this year, is that through ePublishing I have been able to publish and share the short fiction I've been writing the past twenty-five years. The literary agents I tried to work with all said that the New York publishing houses were not going to talk to a short story writer. You have to write a novel. Until now, the power was in their hands. Today publishing is in the hands of the people. We can all be digital Gutenbergs now.

This fall many of the stories which had been lying dormant in my hard drive were released to a wider audience by means of Kindle and Nook. I actually did publish my novel, The Red Scorpion, but consider the short story volumes to be my jewels. At this point there are three: Unremembered Histories, Newmanesque, and The Breaking Point and Other Stories. And if you get a chance, write a review.* Keep our book-reading community rolling.

Thank you, Mr. Bezos. And thank you to all the world's readers as well. Because of you we write on.

*I am currently offering artwork to readers who write reviews for any of my books. Details here.

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