Amazon VP Russ Grandinetti came to Brazil last week, to talk about Amazon’s and Kindle’s history, as well as the company’s global expansion. He spoke to a room crammed to full capacity at the São Paulo Book Biennial, showing that Brazilian publishers are excited, if not anxious, about the arrival of the giant retailer, planned for later this year.
Mr. Grandinetti presented Amazon’s customer-centric company vision, as well as Kindle’s history, with its “customer obsession and long-term thinking” as the main elements for the company’s success. On global expansion, he stated that “Kindle customers buy 3.3 times more books in the first year. In all countries we see significant increase in book purchase. There’s no way this is a shift of demand, it’s an increase of demand.”
Although Mr. Grandinetti adamantly avoided questions about the details of Amazon’s opening in Brazil, he appeared optimistic about it. “The book business here is almost unique; I don’t know any other country that writes on the constitution that books are not to be taxed. It’s also a very connected society.” He also pointed out the change of speed in publishing after the digital revolution: “I think Brazilian editors should be publishing about the accomplishments of Brazilian athletes in the Olympics next week, not in 18 months, because by then everybody will have forgotten about it.”
The language barrier is not an obstacle for Amazon: “When we move locally into a country, we first have the issue of American versus local books, and we’ve seen fast growth of business in those countries. But also, English language books sell globally, every year there’s an increase of English language titles in other countries.” Conversely, the company uses its local presence to help boost sales of books in foreign languages in the US and abroad. “We hope we can help you reach Portuguese speakers around the world, not only in Mozambique, Angola etc. when we develop business here,” says the VP.
One of the main concerns about the retailer’s arrival in Brazil is the “discount rate battle” in online bookstores it might start with Brazilian publishers, as well as Amazon’s aggressive negotiation strategies. On this sensitive subject, Mr. Grandinetti could not have been more diplomatic: “We have much more in common with publishers than not, our businesses are very much in line. For the media, it is always more interesting to read about the disagreements. I believe it is all happening in an orderly way. Many of those [US] publishers are having their most profitable years.”