The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More

by Chris Anderson

The Long Tail refers to the shape of the graph with high sales volume of a few hit products in the head, and low volume of many products in the tail. The book is about the shift from an economy of mass-market hits to an economy of niches.

A large brick-and-mortar bookstore carries approximately 100,000 titles. “Yet about a quarter of Amazon’s book sales come from outside its top 100,000 titles.” Amazon and eBay overcome the scarcity of local shelf space for physical products. Digital products (such as MP3 downloads) are ideal since there is no warehousing cost… Netflix reckoned that 95 percent of its 25,000 DVDs… rented at least once a quarter. …98 percent of [Amazon’s] top 100,000 books sold at least once a quarter.”

It strikes me that the examples in the book explain the benefits to online retailers of carrying a long tail inventory; however, unless you are selling battleships, one sale per quarter does not sound so profitable for the manufacturer.

“In a world of infinite choice, context—not content—is king.” Directly and indirectly, customers help other customers with similar interests to make informed choices. This includes product reviews (like this one) and Amazon’s Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought [these items] feature.  But you probably already knew that.

The Long Tail is an important observation, originally published as an article in Wired. I think the point of the book is made in the first couple of chapters.

I bought this book in an airport to pass the time on an international flight. But honestly, in a world of infinite choice, I’m sure you could find something more interesting on Amazon.

Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. New York: Hyperion, 2006. Buy from

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