[Jeff Bezos] picked an industry segment that had a product that was temperature and drop tolerant, could be shipped cheaply, and which customers did not need to physically touch to assess quality. He noticed that figuring out which of these book-widgets to buy was actually a very difficult problem, and he worked consistently and imaginatively to solve that problem (customer reviews, recommendations engines, See Inside This Book, better meta-data about books and authors, etc.). Bezos recognized and worked to solve the book discovery problem. He. Solved. That. Problem. This is a big deal. Do not lose sight of this. When traditional publishers complain about the discovery problem, it is because they recognize they can’t buy the kind of advantage at Amazon.com that they have grown accustomed to in bricks-and-mortar stores. “Chandler remembers being deeply impressed by a publishing executive’s telling him, in 2006, that the way to make a best-seller was to put a copy of the book on the front table of every bookstore in the country.” Customers are not having trouble discovering books. Publishers are learning that their books aren’t necessarily what the customers wanted, when they aren’t tripping over them on the way to the book they do want.
An interesting look at just how Amazon became so dominant, from someone who used to work there. Definitely worth a read, though the tl;dr version is, “It’s about the data, durr.”
(Though, incidentally, there is a notable omission from the post, i.e. authors. A lot of words about suppliers and distributors and customers… nothing on the actual schlubs who produce the widgets Amazon is selling for bargain basement prices. Welcome to the de-professionalised workplace, fellow wordtouched.)