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Where does that tail start, actually?

So a long time ago when the earth was flat and God was a boy, I worked at a recruitment consultancy (don't ask) which ran a profitable business placing people in the publishing industry (my side of the business wasn't so profitable, like I said, don't ask). 

Anyway, my colleagues on the publishing side of the biz regularly received copies of 'The Bookseller' trade magazine. For those of you not in the 'book business', The Bookseller, along with the Frankfurt Book Fair, is (used to be?) the reference point for people to find out about people moves, M&As and soon-to-released publications of many types. 

Around this time, I'm going to say 1999, (you can't be that old, Liz?! Oh, go on...) my desk mates would chatter on about how The Bookseller was becoming redundant because "Amazon is listing much more accurate and real-time dates for when books are due to be published." 

OK, flash forward and I'm editing a video at the moment where yet another person cites how the retail book business didn’t anticipate the success of Amazon – which, of course, signalled their demise, going-out-of-business sales and a life time membership in the ‘multi-coloured dinosaurs of the last century’ club alongside video rental shops and porn you had to purchase in brown paper bags.

Now, I’ve heard this argument so many times before I almost have it as my ring tone. “OMG, look what happened to Borders and HMV and Blockbuster and, and, and….THAT will happen to banks….because…well…just look…iPADs!”

Ok, one more time for the cheap seats at the back “BANKS ARE NOT BOOK STORES! Never had been, never will be. I know of no one who has ever had their salary deposited at a book store. Most people, unless you are part of an anarchic-liberal commune, deposit their salary in a SECURE, SAFE and REGULATED bank account. (I’m sorry, I need write the word REGULATED again in block capitals, just in case you don't get the difference between the UNREGULATED book business and the HIGHLY REGULATED bank business.) I love apples, but bananas make me puke. Don’t compare them in my presence.

But, back to the topic at hand. (and I hope you are following me, because there will be a quiz at the end) Amazon took over the book selling business not only because they provided an easy and simple customer-facing service – but because they were better at every part of the book selling business. Even the parts that most of the buying public were never even aware of (anyone ever been to the Frankfurt Book Fair? – No, me neither.)

You know those charts your teacher drew in school marking out the timeline of the age of planet earth – where the emergence of ‘man’ only took up half an inch at the end of the blackboard? That half an inch is where you place the ‘customer-facing’ arrow. If you don’t agree with me, that means you are looking to take down the entire concept of Western capitalism (which I’m not arguing isn’t a bad idea – but would probably be a much bigger job) I’m a full blackboard type of gal – I leave the half an inch at the end to the subs.

My point is this – don’t tell me a story about how you’re going to ‘disrupt the banking industry’ then only show me the end of the tail. That dinosaur may have teeth and it may have claws – but in between is a complicated central nervous and digestive system – whether it is analogue, digital or written out in smudgy, 1990s fax paper. Master that reality and your company may be around in 20 years.

Don’t disrupt – collaborate. Don’t destroy – survive.

BTW – Any of you heard about our upcoming Finextra Future Money event? Come along, you’re more than welcome to tell me I’m full of shit – I can take it, I’m a big girl.


Comments: (1)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 17 January, 2014, 18:17Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

BORDERS may be dead but the printed book is still dominant, with 69% of market share in USA in 2013 (Source:

Elizabeth Lumley

Elizabeth Lumley

Global FinTech Commentator

Girl, Disrupted

Member since

05 Nov 2007



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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Disruption in Retail Banking

Growth in internet and mobile technologies has transformed many industries and economies. The market forces and competitive landscape has completely changed in many sectors. iTunes has fundamentally changed music industry, Amazon has driven most big brick and mortar book sellers out of business, Expedia is one of the worlds' biggest travel company….. the list goes on.

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