I’m finishing up a two-day marathon of interviews, podcast preparation and writing here at a mellow Starbucks at 2121 Terry Avenue in Seattle, three blocks from the Amazon campus. If I can find my way back to the light rail from Pioneer Square, I will be on the JetBlue red-eye tonight back to Boston, arriving tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. ET, then back to Maine aboard Amtrak’s Downeaster.
After my interview with Jeff Bezos yesterday afternoon, I took a break on some steps near the Pan Pacific Hotel and realized I had a great view of the Space Needle. It’s a classic structure, reaching in graceful arcs up to the sky. “Reach for the stars” was the phrase that came to mind as I sorted through my conversation with Amazon’s founder and CEO. I realize it was a terrific get, to land an interview with Bezos, but that part of it is not what made the most impact on me. It was the intensity of his mission, which I’ve heard about before, but when you’re sitting at the same table with the man instead of watching a YouTube video of him talking to Charlie Rose, it’s different. It’s personal.
I’ve written here before about Bezos’s recommendation that an inventor needs to be willing to be misunderstood. He hit that theme again yesterday, with even more fervor. If you need to be always understood, then don’t do anything new, he said.
As I ponder the first four years of The Kindle Chronicles, I see that this truth about innovation has another application. When you do something new, you are actually one of the many people who probably won’t understand it for a long time. I had no idea what doing a weekly podcast about the Kindle and eBooks would lead to when I hit “publish” on the first episode on July 26, 2008. I still don’t, but I know I will remember this way station for a long time.
When you’re around someone whose mission is strong and big enough to be daunting, it leads you to take a look at your own mission. Mine has something to do with helping people make the transition to reading and loving eBooks. Readers, mainly, but also authors.
Darlene just texted me after listening to the Bezos interview. She said she loved it, with lots of exclamation marks. When I asked why, she replied, “How fun he makes it all sound. I know it is big business but he makes the journey seem like a grand adventure.” Exactly.
I think Darlene is also going to love next week’s interview with Nancy Pearl. Nancy and I sat in two chairs on the mezzanine level of the hotel this morning, talking about the out-of-print books she is bringing back into circulation with Amazon Publishing’s Book Lust Rediscoveries series. Talk about someone who makes the love of books visible! I can see why she’s earned the status of “rock star librarian.”
The following week I hope to do another interview with Eric Loss, home now in California after his solo circumnavigation of the globe. Both of his Kindles broke, but he accomplished a daunting mission at an admirably young age.
I’ll wrap this up before sleep deprivation leads me to excess. Let’s just say this has been a pretty good couple of days.