Steve Yegge of Google posted something on Google+ that was meant to be read only internally by other people at Google. He forgot to set a flag, it went public, he made it private too late, and now it’s all over the Internet.
There’s a copy of it here.
This is the most telling quote for me:
… Bezos realized long before the vast majority of Amazonians that Amazon needs to be a platform.
You wouldn’t really think that an online bookstore needs to be an extensible, programmable platform. Would you?
And that’s why only Amazon will win with eBooks.
Everyone else thinks an eBook is a product.
Sony, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, even Apple, and everyone else.
An eBook is a platform — or should be.
And that’s what Bezos now understands too.
He’s been slowly moving towards that with Cloud-based syncing of bookmarks, Notes, and sharing quotes.
But the X-ray feature makes it so obvious that everyone should now see it:
Amazon invented X-Ray, a new feature that lets customers explore the “bones of the book.” With a single tap, readers can see all the passages across a book that mention ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, places or topics that interest them, as well as more detailed descriptions from Wikipedia and Shelfari, Amazon’s community-powered encyclopedia for book lovers.
Amazon built X-Ray using its expertise in language processing and machine learning, access to significant storage and computing resources with Amazon S3 and EC2, and a deep library of book and character information. The vision is to have every important phrase in every book.
Although I ripped into X-ray as Amazon’s ploy for future free ad-based eBooks, the fundamentals of it are otherwise part of what I was thinking about back in 2009, when I wrote about Smart Digital Books:
I don’t yet know what Amazon is doing to create X-ray. I also don’t know yet if publishers have to do anything special for their books to be properly “x-rayed.” But Amazon has clearly gone beyond thinking of an eBook as a one-off product.
In the seminal Newsweek article, The Future of Reading, even then Bezos touted the Kindle as a service and not a device, but nowhere did he state his ambition was to “reinvent the book.”
However, when he announced the latest Kindles and Kindle Fire, he openly stated that he started out to reinvent the book.
Four years ago we set out to reinvent the book.
I don’t know if that’s hindsight revisionism or it it was his intent from the beginning. Had he stated it back then, would it have freaked out every book publisher? Would it have been a sufficient warning for them to band together for their own mutual interests — and for the interests of books too?
We’ll never know.
But what we do know now is that Amazon is not thinking like anyone else in the eBook business.
eBooks aren’t a product to them, they’re a platform.
This is why everyone else should just pack up and go home. No one else has thought of the book like this and no one else has the technical firepower to challenge Amazon — nor their marketshare in eBooks.
And you out there, with your startup, stop thinking of it as a product. In the digital world, everything should be thought of in terms of platforms, with connections outside of itself. Go read Steve Yegge’s long post. It will open your eyes.