Steve Coll on Amazon's Ambitions

“Why are books the last bastion of analog?” Bezos asked. “The question is, can you improve upon something as highly evolved and well suited to its task as the book, and if so, how?” Seventeen minutes into his presentation, Bezos announced an answer to his question: very cheap prices would do the job.

Between the Hachette backlash and their new smartphone/ smartcamera, Amazon has had no shortage of press lately, both good and bad.

But what exactly is Amazon? Most of us pay attention to the Googles and the Apples of the world, and during their respective rises to dominance, it was easy to see what each of those companies were: Google was a software company, Apple a hardware company.

Amazon is not so easy to categorize. They're a retailer, sure, but they're also changing the book industry and a hundred aspects of our lives.

To understand the company, it's necessary to know the man behind it. More specifically, it's necessary to know Bezos's ambition. Understand that, and you'll understand just what's at stake for Amazon. And once you understand, you might be a little apprehensive about the future of commerce... and for good reason.

Citizen Bezos