“Wow…” That was my whispered, slack-jawed reaction to the final 30 minutes of BioShock Infinite, arguably the most compelling video game experience I’ve ever had. It’s not a perfect game by any stretch of the definition, and since completing the game, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading some of the more measured reviews that haven’t been afraid to point out its flaws, but to borrow a phrase from Grace Jones, it might not be perfect, but it’s perfect for me.
Never mind the folly of dismissing Goodreads, a social network dedicated to books with 13m+ members and is steadily growing, or even Pinterest, where Random House has inexplicably attracted 1.5m followers, but the very idea that “something is really, chronically missing in online retail discovery” is arguably contradicted by Amazon’s 2012 results, suggesting that “online retail discovery” isn’t really a problem for readers. It’s a problem for publishers.
For the third consecutive year, I had the pleasure of doing a presentation on social media for my friend Peter Costanzo’s M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media class at NYU last night, and while preparing for it, I was surprised by how much has changed since the first time, and how much hasn’t. Pinterest and Tumblr are bigger deals now (or at least perceived as such), while Twitter is steadily maturing (from a business perspective), Facebook changes its approach every six months, and email is still the underrated king of the hill.
A large part of GOOD’s appeal was its unique business model, its compelling mission, and its target audience: “For People Who Give a Damn.” While not replicable in any scalable way, it had a far more noble mission than the mercenary and fickle “connecting advertisers to eyeballs” model of most magazines, and it looks like that mission ultimately forced a complete and radical rethinking of the magazine itself.
It’s not a huge stretch to posit Amazon as the reverse-Valve of the ebook world, constantly pushing the envelope in unexpected ways, aggressively experimenting with pricing, developing a core of popular franchises, while staying focused on delivering and optimizing the best consumer experience.