- when: 2014/02/17
- author: George Packer
- source: The New Yorker
- topics: Amazon.com Jeff Bezos big data
- link: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2014/02/17/140217fa fact packer?currentPage=all
- title: Cheap Words
- summary: Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?
Bezos said that Amazon intended to sell books as a way of gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers. The books would be priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume. After collecting data on millions of customers, Amazon could figure out how to sell everything else dirt cheap on the Internet. (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. It's going to be really bad for books."
Before Google, and long before Facebook, Bezos had realized that the greatest value of an online company lay in the consumer data it collected. Two decades later, Amazon sells a bewildering array of products: lawnmowers, iPods, art work, toys, diapers, dildos, shoes, bike racks, gun safes, 3-D printers. Amazon's code of corporate secrecy is extreme – it won't confirm how many Seattle employees it has, or how many Kindle e-readers have been sold – so it's impossible to know for sure, but, according to one publisher's estimate, book sales in the U.S. now make up no more than seven per cent of the company's roughly seventy-five billion dollars in annual revenue.