Notes After a Very Full Two Days in Seattle

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.




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Comments 11

  1. Eolake wrote:

    “When you do something new, you are actually one of the many people who probably won’t understand it for a long time.”

    Well said. (Did you say it first?) I once made a drawing for a concert, of a swan And a swine.

    (There was no colour on the original poster.)
    Later several people asked me whether it was a tree or a mushroom cloud in the background. I said when I drew it I thought of it as a tree, but clearly it can also be a mushroom cloud, and also clearly to me it couldn’t be any different shape than it was.

    Posted 28 Jul 2012 at 10:20 pm
  2. Len Edgerly wrote:

    I don’t remember seeing it anywhere else, Eolake, and it felt like an original thought as it presented itself in my caffeinated, sleep-deprived final hours in Seattle. I like your example!

    Posted 29 Jul 2012 at 8:03 am
  3. Aaron Finestone wrote:

    Dear Len:

    Last night was Tisha B’Av a Jewish fast marking the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 and several other disasters. At Germantown Jewish Centre in Philadelphia, the Book of Lamentations was chanted in Hebrew by candlelight. I am proud to announce that I was the only person to be following the translation on a Kindle by candlelight. The cutting edge and tradition. Ten years from now, nobody will be following on paper when Lamentations is chanted.

    Posted 29 Jul 2012 at 6:13 pm
  4. Len Edgerly wrote:

    Aaron, that’s a great story. Thanks for posting it!

    Posted 29 Jul 2012 at 6:18 pm
  5. Leslie Davis wrote:

    Hi Len!

    Congrats on 4 years! I enjoy your podcast very much and listen weekly.

    Thank you!

    Posted 30 Jul 2012 at 7:17 am
  6. Miriam wrote:

    Congratulations on four years. I am a regular listener and now I’m wondering how you’ll top this when you celebrate year 5!

    Posted 30 Jul 2012 at 11:04 am
  7. Len Edgerly wrote:

    Hmm. That’s a good question! Maybe Oprah!

    Posted 30 Jul 2012 at 11:28 am
  8. Rebecca wrote:

    I’m glad you are continuing your podcast. I always tell people who are considering a kindle that this is a good site to get acquainted with when they do get one. I purchased two for a local elementary school to give away as a prize for their top readers. I hope they are enjoying them over the summer. Finding kindle books for my 6 year old grandson has been somewhat challenging.

    Posted 30 Jul 2012 at 6:06 pm
  9. Pete Morin wrote:

    Hi Len,
    I believe I rode a school bus with you in the late 1960’s. What a small world. Chuck says hi.

    Posted 25 Feb 2013 at 8:09 am
  10. Len Edgerly wrote:

    Cool. Was that the BHS bus from Wayland etc?

    Posted 25 Feb 2013 at 3:19 pm
  11. Pete Morin wrote:

    Yes sir, Smitty at the wheel.

    Posted 25 Feb 2013 at 9:19 pm