walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Businessweek profile of Larry Kirshbaum

Credit where credit is due: As usual (and I didn't mention this on the previous post, my bad), h/t Nate over at The Digital Reader for linking to this and the NYT profile of Lynch/Nook.


Next: Stone is gratuitously judgerific (<-- not a word).

"Even more awkwardly for publishers, Amazon is their largest retailer, so they are now in the position of having to compete against an important business partner. On the West Coast people cheerfully call this kind of arrangement coopetition. On the East Coast it’s usually referred to as getting stabbed in the back."

This is _not_ how I'm used to seeing the word coopetition used. Coopetition is generally used when organizations which ordinarily compete agree not to do so (either by not price cutting beyond a certain point or by segmenting the market or whatever) in a particular area in order to allow everyone to make (more) money. I'm not sure if there is a word for competing with other elements of your supply chain. Generally speaking, retailers avoid doing this if it is possible to do so (but retailers _will_ do this if there's too much low hanging fruit and/or the supply chain is refusing to, er, supply. There's an analogy in marriage/sex, but I'm only thinking of it because I've been catching up on Savage Love).

One of my all-time favorite examples of a retailer "competing" with other elements of their supply chain because the suppliers wouldn't supply is when Wal-Mart hired a gaming company (sorry about the sketchy details -- it was long ago and I don't have any sourcing right now -- I'll try to find it and ETA it) to create fishing and hunting video games. As Wal-Mart correctly anticipated, they sold a lot of them and it became a standard gaming genre, but my recollection is that they more or less invented the category because no one else was.

[Really sickening coverage here:


"In their biggest splash so far, Kirshbaum and Amazon paid an advance of more than $800,000 for a memoir by actress and director Penny Marshall, whose name hasn’t been mentioned so frequently in New York media circles since the days of Laverne & Shirley." Ouch! _Big_ and _A League of Her Own_ both generated a fair amount of excitement in media circles, and those are just the most obvious ones that sprang to mind. This isn't as bad as saying no one has talked about Ron Howard since he played Opie, but it's close.

Kirshbaum's years at Warner Books are described as: "presiding over a golden age in which the company combined the literary sensibilities of its Little, Brown imprint with the mass-market muscle of Warner Books." That's not exactly how I remember it (Warner Books was actually one of the first imprints I started purposefully checking for before buying a book, because I noticed that they looked great in the store and I tended to really dislike them when I tried to read them), but _this_ was just vicious:

"There were some breakout successes, like the treacly 1992 The Bridges of Madison County, and crass commercial calls, such as Madonna’s pornographic coffee table book, Sex, which was wrapped in plastic and sold for $50."

Really? Taking credit for Sparks as a bestseller but then slamming Bridges as treacly? I'd stick with sentimental, if you want to convey the tone without pissing off a whole bunch of people (I'm not a fan, but I know people who are); it's still judge-y but not as over the top. And I wouldn't call _Sex_ a crass commercial call. You should see what that thing goes for used. It may have been crass. It may have been commercial. But it wasn't crassly commercial. (I'd go with shrewd and possibly underpriced, but hey, that's just me.)

Beyond the judgerific (<-- not a word) aspects, there are some telling sentences in the article:

"One unresolved challenge for Amazon will be to find a way to get its paper books into traditional bookstores."


"But it’s difficult to imagine Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) and Costco Wholesale (COST), two of the biggest booksellers in the country, going out of their way to lend their archenemy a hand."

I was in Staples the other day. They sell tablets. Poor Playbook, stuck in the middle of the aisle. Guess what graced the endcap? It wasn't an iPad. Retail is pretty simple: you'd better sell the stuff your customers want to buy or they'll go be somebody's else's customer instead. That's why Amazon re-listed Macmillan's books. I find it hard to believe the rules would work any differently if Thomas & Mercer manages to come up with a monster hit, but if they do, anyone looking to go buy that book will, I guess, just have to shop online.

Gosh durn it.
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