Just who is Timothy Ferriss? According to his Twitter biography, Tim Ferriss is a Japanophile, tea drinker, tango world record holder, and language learning fanatic. Mr. Ferriss is also the author of the #1 NYT bestsellers The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body. His newest book, The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life will undoubtedly followsuit.
This posting is not a book review in the traditional sense. It will not try to convince you to follow Tim Ferriss’ life, work, health, and fitness advice (though his ideas and methods are life changing). Instead, this review is really about Tim Ferriss, book publishing, and the ginormous tech entity known to us all as Amazon.com.
The facts: Ferriss’ newest work is published by Amazon. This means you won’t find stacks of shiny new copies at your local Barnes and Noble store. Why would any author do this? Ferriss’ popularity and following are firmly established. He will sell books regardless of venue. This is Ferriss’ “sniper shot directed at the heart of every member of the publishing oligarchy.” Translation: Ferriss believes traditional publishing practices financially favor the publisher and do not prioritize readers.
The figures: Ferriss received a seven figure advance for this work. Both the author and publisher are hard at work promoting, by offering slashed prices and incentives for buying (think gift cards, memberships, Kindles, conference appearances). No other publishing entity has the financial means to continue to slash book prices indefinitely. Ferriss wants The 4-Hour Chef to be the first nonfiction book to sell a million copies on Kindle. Amazon can lower the price as much as needed to achieve this goal as quickly as they please.
The book has only been available a few weeks, but time will tell how Amazon and Ferriss have fared with their attempts. My guess is that Ferriss is one of the first of many, major authors who will make the transition to publish with Amazon. This will have dramatic effects on the price and availability of books in the future. Does it mean Barnes and Noble will have nothing to put on their shelves? Certainly not. But surely the traditional means of publishing are changing and it remains to be seen just how this will affect readers and libraries.
View the official book trailer for The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life
For further thoughts on this topic, see the New York Times article “Tim Ferriss and Amazon Try to Reinvent Publishing”