In the era of the Kindle, a book costs the same price as a sandwich.
Dennis Johnson, an independent publisher, says that “Amazon has successfully fostered the idea that a book is a thing of minimal value—it’s a widget.” Amazon is a global superstore, like Walmart. Amazon’s identity and goals are never clear and always fluid, which makes the company destabilizing and intimidating. still takes you to Amazon’s site—before adopting the name of the world’s largest river by volume.
All the other titles, including “Sam Walton, Made in America: My Story,” are business books, and even Ishiguro’s novel—about a self-erasing English butler who realizes that he has missed his chance at happiness in love—offers what Bezos calls a “regret-minimization framework”: how not to end up like the butler. (He declined to be interviewed for this article.) It wasn’t a love of books that led him to start an online bookstore.
“It was totally based on the property of books as a product,” Shel Kaphan, Bezos’s former deputy, says. ” “We have the most affiliate links”—a form of online advertising.
After Apple launched the i Pod, Steve Jobs didn’t sign up pop stars for recording contracts. What remains constant is ambition, and the search for new things to be ambitious about.
It seems preposterous now, but Amazon began as a bookstore.
It’s also a hardware manufacturer, like Apple, and a utility, like Con Edison, and a video distributor, like Netflix, and a book publisher, like Random House, and a production studio, like Paramount, and a literary magazine, like All these streams and tributaries make Amazon something radically new in the history of American business. doesn’t build transmission towers and rent them to smaller phone companies, the way Amazon Web Services provides server infrastructure for startups (not to mention the C. Bezos originally thought of calling his company Relentless.com—that U. (If Bezos were a reader of classic American fiction, he might have hit upon ) Amazon’s shape-shifting, engulfing quality, its tentacles extending in all directions, makes it unusual even in the tech industry, where rapid growth, not profitability, is the measure of success.
(Bezos calculated that, in 1993, usage climbed by two hundred and thirty thousand per cent.) His wife, Mac Kenzie, is a novelist who studied under Toni Morrison at Princeton; according to Stone, Bezos’s favorite novel is Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day,” which is on the suggested reading list for Amazon executives.
The vast selection made possible by the Internet gave Amazon its initial advantage, and a wedge into selling everything else. The books would be priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume.
For Bezos to have seen a bookstore as a means to world domination at the beginning of the Internet age, when there was already a crisis of confidence in the publishing world, in a country not known for its book-crazy public, was a stroke of business genius. After collecting data on millions of customers, Amazon could figure out how to sell everything else dirt cheap on the Internet.
In 1995, in Chicago, Bezos manned an Amazon booth at the annual conclave of the publishing industry, which is now called Book Expo America. (Amazon says that its original business plan “contemplated only books.”) Afterward, Doeren told his partner at Rainy Day Books, Vivien Jennings, “I just met the world’s biggest snake-oil salesman.
Books are easy to ship and hard to break, and there was a major distribution warehouse in Oregon. Doeren considered this, then asked, “What’s your business model?
Crucially, there are far too many books, in and out of print, to sell even a fraction of them at a physical store. ” Bezos said that Amazon intended to sell books as a way of gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers.