Amazon’s Grandinetti: Agents, Publishers, Retailers Not ‘Really Necessary’

In a profile in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Amazon senior vice president and head of Kindle content Russ Grandinetti was called possibly “the most influential person in publishing.” The Guardian dredged up a 2011 quotation from Grandinetti which implied that publishers like Hachette and retailers like Amazon aren’t necessary in the contemporary publishing process:

“The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader. Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”*

The position echoes what many self-published authors say about their own relationship to readers. Publishers and agents, however, have been saying for years that they add value to the publishing process. Simon & Schuster recently released a series of videos meant to highlight its role in bringing books to market, the latest in a long line of such efforts by publishers.

Grandinetti, who will be speaking at Digital Book World 2015, is at the center of the Amazon-Hachette contract dispute, which has captured the fascination of the publishing world and the wider population. The Guardian profile called Grandinetti CEO Jeff Bezos’s “chief lieutenant,” with the “highest-profile” job at Amazon and possibly “the most influential person in publishing.”

* UPDATE: The quotation below from Grandinetti first appeared in a 2011 New York Times article about what was then a fledgling Amazon Publishing business. The full context of the quote is the following: 

Amazon executives, interviewed at the company’s headquarters here, declined to say how many editors the company employed, or how many books it had under contract. But they played down Amazon’s power and said publishers were in love with their own demise.

“It’s always the end of the world,” said Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon’s top executives. “You could set your watch on it arriving.”

He pointed out, though, that the landscape was in some ways changing for the first time since Gutenberg invented the modern book nearly 600 years ago. “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader,” he said. “Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”

 

While this doesn’t change the idea behind the sentiment, it does change the context of it. The first paragraph of this post has been updated to reflect that. 

Learn more about Digital Book World 2015

 

2 thoughts on “Amazon’s Grandinetti: Agents, Publishers, Retailers Not ‘Really Necessary’

  1. Michael W. Perry

    It’s true that in publishing only an author and reader are absolutely necessary. But narrow necessity often isn’t that useful.

    If I’m sick, you might say that just a physician and I are all that’s absolutely necessary. After all, that physician can treat my illness. The real question is whether than something is enough or if I’d be better off with the assistance of specialists, nurses, and technicians, along with clinics and hospitals. In many cases I would.

    A ‘just the author and reader’ world is better suited for pen-pals than for publishing. What we’re squabbling over now is what role each of those others will play in the new market.

    –Michael W. Perry, My Nights with Leukemia

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