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Interview with Jeff Bezos of Amazon 116

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hey-jeff-let-us-interview-you dept.
slakdrgn writes "Wired has an interview with Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon.com) with some interesting information on how he approaches the market, why they stopped doing TV advertising three years ago and hints at what might be coming in the future."
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Interview with Jeff Bezos of Amazon

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  • Is it just me.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sjwt (161428) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @11:58AM (#11304027)
    Or dose that interview seem to be rather empty?

    but its nice to see the adversisting budget went to free shiping, I think there right, if companys focused more on the product and less on the hype, we'd all be happyer.
    • Re:Is it just me.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jmcmunn (307798) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:08PM (#11304086)
      Yeah, it did seem a little short on content. Although it does show an important side of Bezos, in that he know what the customer wants and what will drive his (amazon's) sales. The free shipping on Amazon is one reason I keep coming back there to buy stuff. When I need to order a DVD or book, or even electronics occasionally I will check Amazon first. Sometimes they just don't have the best price, so I go somewhere else, but often times the free shipping makes the difference in where I order from.

      What they need to do is get more competitive on certain products, such as video games or whatever. Right now, it seems to me that all of the video games are actually sold through third party stores. Like Toys R Us for example. And they don't offer free shipping on games because of that. So when I need a game, I go somewhere else. That's a huge loss in business if there are a few thousand people like me who do the same, and all because they aren't following the sales model that gets me in the door for everything else I buy there at Amazon.
      • I believe they don't sell video games directly because of their contract with Toys R Us. I'm not sure what the current status is (what with lawsuits and all), but originally Toys R Us was the provider for toys (including video games) on Amazon. I don't know if they'll eventually get into selling video games directly, but it would be nice.
      • Re:Is it just me.. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Blakey Rat (99501)
        I hate those third party stores.

        Amazon, at least for people in Washington State, usually ships with plain ol' US Mail. This is great for me because it means that I can recieve packages during the day when I'm at work and not able to sign-- US Mail doesn't require a signature and I've instructed my postal carrier on where to leave it.

        Then one day I bought a video game from Amazon. I didn't realize it at the time, but I wasn't buying *from* Amazon, I was buying from J&B Computer Crap or some company l
        • So I come home and instead of my game, there's a damned Post-It on my door that says that the game requires a signature. I can't sign for it, because I'm at work when it gets delivered,

          Why couldn't you just sign the release form and leave it at your door? When FedEx attempts redelivery on the next day, they'll just take the note and leave the package.

          Or you could do what I do, and track the package as it travels to you. On the day the package is supposed to arrive, leave a signed note on the door for

        • Well, that may be nice for you, but those "third party stores" gave this po' college student a 90% discount off the list price of a textbook last year. That's one of the reasons I still bother to check Amazon for books.
    • Re:Is it just me.. (Score:4, Informative)

      by bulkmailforyou (847513) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:11PM (#11304103)
      It does seem to be an empty interview, but it is from Wired, so it seems to be part of the slashdot-wired subscription service. Amazon was great when they first started, you could get textbooks and other hard to find in regular bookstore books. From the interview, that appears to still be their strategy.

      I do find it difficult to find out if an item is really in stock or may be in stock though. More than a few times I have ordered books that were "usually shipped in 24 hours" that were not going to be available for weeks. Technically it does not say in stock, but I assumed that it would be. Where I first used to order from amazon a hard to find book, since I may not get it for weeks now, I first try the local bookstores that may have it (SoftPro for software books). Stores like that also have great people working there who know a lot about the subjects in the store.

    • The interview is unbelievably empty... He touches several times on the personalized reccomendations that Amazon does - which really has been key to their business success. He raises an excellent point about the role of Amazon being to find the "right" 15,000 customers for a book - or whatever the magic number is. I can see further integration with their music and software sales for personalized reccomendations. It's the high tech equivalent of "would you like fries with that?"
    • Yeah, well, most humans don't really care what the content of whatever it is that the rich and powerful are saying--it's enough for them to just be able to bask in their glow...

      stupid humans!
    • but its nice to see the adversisting budget went to free shiping, I think there right, if companys focused more on the product and less on the hype, we'd all be happyer.

      Christ, think about what that means if Amazon is sufficiently confident that they no longer advertise. How many businesses, even dominant ones, can manage that feat? Their name and presence is ubiquitous, like the iPod. Amazon is online shopping.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The interview states that Amazon sells 20 million different articles. What I'd like to know, is this the number of articles in their catalogue or is this the number they really sell? Because when I search for something usually only the first two pages of results are available from Amazon while the bulk of results aren't available from them!
    • by ikea5 (608732) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:54PM (#11304303)
      Amazon's becoming too difficult for people like my grandma to buy things.

      Want to buy this coffee maker? You can get it from Amazon directly for X amount plus free shipping if your total purchase is over Z amount with other qulified items(look for yellow truck symbol!!), otherwise the standard shipping is X for this one item plus X for each item from our kitchenware store. Or if you prefer, you can also purchase it from one of our associsated stores, the shipping is X if you buy it from A store(ships free for $100+ order!!), X from B store(different set of shipping price base on weight and some magical fomulas), or you can choose in-store pick up from C and D store(price may be higher or lower). Not confused enough? You can also buy it from one of our 100s Amazon sellers(New or Almost New or Used or Collectible!!), and no, the price does not count towards the free shipping, yes you can use a gift code, but only if it's not a promo code(count the digits!), oh and be sure to check out the seller's reputation, see all those stars? more is better!! and it's coverd under Amazon's A-Z warranty(link leds to a two page fine print)...

  • by northcat (827059) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:03PM (#11304055) Journal
    He just tells about the advantages of online bookstores over conventional bookstores. He doesn't say much about what advantages Amazon can offer over other online bookstores. I guess there aren't many.
    • by keesh (202812)
      Looks like he's trying to give the impression that Amazon *is* the only online bookstore. Rather smart PR move there...
    • I read more than the majority of adults, am in the position of recommending book sources to students and to friends/family, etc. and Amazon is my main recommendation: reliability, good at dealing with (very occasional) mistakes, and an integrated marketplace feature.

      I'm not suggesting there aren't other good outlets out there, especially in locations other than the UK, but Amazon may as well be the only online bookstore for many people and educational faculties. They have a popular brand over here and they

    • Other than the free shipping for orders over $25, you're probably correct, IF you are insisting upon getting the book new and don't want to go shopping in the physical realm. A good used book store has a mountain of good books at low prices, including new best-sellers, and is staffed by enthusiasts who will bend over backwards to get you the title you want. This is still a potentially lucrative category of small business.

      There are several good used book stores in my town, and I've had to cut myself off

  • Hopefully, everyone who buys used books as well as new ones should know about Bookfinder [bookfinder.com], which searches tens of thousands of dealers on various listings sites (including, if you want, Amazon and Barnes & Noble). When you buy a used book through Amazon, what you're usually buying a book that's already listed through one the multiple listing sites that Amazon adds their own percetange (usually 100%) on top of.

    And I know, because I sell science fiction first editions [rr.com] in my spare time.

    • by bstadil (7110) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:27PM (#11304201) Homepage
      I just tried 3 titles from my wish list at Amazon comparing prices found at Bookfinder.

      Two were 50% more expensive for Used version and one about the same.

      So why should I care about Amazon's share of the sales if it provides me a better overall price in addition to dealing with a known entity?

      By the way having a long Wish List at Amazon and checking Usd Prices from time to time is an excellent way of getting good deals. New books drops to 1/3 or so often less than two mothn after release.

    • They take a cut which seems reasonable to me, and they give you some money for shipping.

      The people selling used books set the price, which in my experience, is almost always lower unless it is rare. Read: supply and demand; you can't get it anywhere else except used anymore.

    • Bookfinder:

      1) is slow
      2) has a terrible ui
      3) doesn't sort results well
      4) doesn't find the best prices
      5) has no seller ratings
      6) has no reader reviews

      All in all I'm not sure who would ever use this service. On every level it seems second rate.

      Half.com [half.com] (owned by eBay) is a much, much better service and includes reader reviews, and seller ratings.

    • That's incorrect. (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      As someone who's sold a number of used books on Amazon, the commission they charge is pretty small. From the marketplace site:

      4. The moment a buyer purchases your item, Amazon.com collects $0.99 plus a percentage of the sales price:

      Computers = 6 percent

      Camera & Photo, Cell Phones & Service, and Electronics items = 8 percent

      Items in the Everything Else Store = 10 percent

      All other product lines = 15 percent

      I used to take my books to Half-Price Books but stopped once I sold a few on Amazon an

  • My experience (Score:5, Informative)

    by LewsTherinKinslayer (817418) <lewstherinkinslayer@gmail.com> on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:12PM (#11304110) Homepage
    I've used a few different online retailers for various products. The best two I have ever dealt with is amazon and newegg.

    Not once has either screwed up my order: always on time, with the correct contents, and well packaged. Which is why I keep coming back. They both have ease of use, with reliability. Perhaps they don't offer any unique in and of themselves. Perhaps their prices are the same as elsewhere. But the fact is, if I know I can trust them to not send me the wrong damn fan, or that my dvd will arrive and they case won't be cracked, then I'll always go with them.
    • Re:My experience (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DrEldarion (114072)
      I think you missed the real reason Amazon and Newegg are both so great - their customer service. In my experience, both of them will go out of their way to make you happy, whether it be Newegg making returns hassle-free or Amazon giving you a $20 credit because the price of an item has dropped since you bought it two weeks ago.
      • Agreed and I'll raise you one. I have been using newegg since it first opened a few years back. I have been using amazon for around 5 years. I have never had to call customer service. I currently place 2-3 orders a month on amazon (clif bars bulk, CD's etc) and about 1 every other month on newegg. I happen to have one in transit from both places as we speak.

        Never had any issues at all with the orders, speed or quality of goods recieved from either place. That to me is the reason that 90% of my luxury sh
      • Actually, I didn't really miss the real reason they are both so great. I never had to use it. And that's exactly my point. The best customer service is to never have any need for it, when it comes to online retailing. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to hear that both Amazon and Newegg have excellent customer service. I would never have begun shopping at either had I never first heard that about them. But really, I'm more impressed that in the two plus years I've been shopping at each, I've never had to use any
  • It shows (Score:5, Interesting)

    by holiggan (522846) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:12PM (#11304111)
    I've been an Amazon (both .com and .co.uk) for a couple of years now and it shows that they really care about customer service, as Jeff mentions.

    Just an example, I ordered an old PC game some time ago, and when I got it, I noticed that it was lacking a CD (it was one of those 4 CD games of old age). I write to Amazon, not knowing what to expect from them. But, to my surprise, they wrote back, saying that they would ship another package, no charge, and that I could keep the first one and do with it whatever I chose to! (they sugested giving it to charity)

    It was really a surprise to me, I'm not used to this kind of service, not even on "live" stores, let alone on online ones!

    Anyway, I'm prety happy with my relationship with Amazon and I'll continue to buy from them whenever I can.

    Keep up the good work, guys!

    • Re:It shows (Score:2, Funny)

      by fartmasterB (664800)
      And I'm sure the charity really appreciated the incomplete version of Hexen.
      • And I'm sure the charity really appreciated the incomplete version of Hexen.

        Amen; what on *earth* were Amazon thinking when they suggested donating an incomplete game to a charity shop?! (*)

        I've had stuff like a scanner, which I spent ages trying to get to work, couldn't even figure out if the hardware or drivers were faulty, and... someone might have got use out of it if they had infinite patience and intelligence. But I didn't want to risk some poor sod getting it in a charity shop and having as man
      • It could have been one of thos collections of several old games.
    • I shop at Amazon frequently, because of their huge inventory. I've never needed to contact customer service, so I suppose I too am a happy Amazon customer.

      Anyway, most people are not. Their ResellerRating [resellerratings.com] is not only below average, but their customer service rating is under 5. I understand that RR isn't perfectly accurate for a number of reasons, but those 540 reviewers' opinions should be counted.
    • I had the same experience and it has made me a life-long Amazon.com customer.

      I'm in the US Army, currently stationed in Korea. When I first got here, I didn't realize how long it sometimes takes for packages to be delivered to APO AP addresses; occasionally, it will take upwards of a month. So after waiting three weeks for a package to arrive, I wrote Amazon and asked if perhaps my shipment had been lost somewhere (you also can't use on-line tracking for items being sent to APO address).

      Really, I just

    • My sister recently got a book with pages 42 - 73 missing. Don't ask me how it happened, but Amazon immediately sent out another copy of the book. Hopefully it won't be missing those pages.
  • That's easy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer (533834) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @12:28PM (#11304209)

    ...hints at what might be coming in the future.

    I can tell you that right now. More stupid strangle patents, like the infamous one click patent. [wired.com]

    Bezos is a tool.

    • sorry, you can't criticize Amazon as they patented that.
    • Wow, get your finger out of your butt please. I think 95% of people of the more internet/technology saavy folks out there (ie. slashdot readers) are like you. They rail on great companies like Amazon for one or two instances of things that are a little controversial. The 1-click patent aside, you need to understand the importance of Amazon as a present-day e-commerce leader, and recognize the different ways that they leverage (free, open source) technology to innovate and improve customer experience. Along
    • The one-click patent was pretty damn goofy, but they haven't done anything to really irk me since then. And they only really got it to irritate Barnes and Noble in the first place.

      It's been too long, and I've lost my indignation. I can't find it anywhere, even after I try to retrace my steps. Until I can find it, I'll cut Amazon a bit of slack.
  • Profit? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ClosedSource (238333) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @01:13PM (#11304365)
    Has Amazon made a profit yet? I'm not talking about profitable quarters. Has Amazon made more in revenue over its lifetime than the money invested?
    • Fiscal Luddite! Profit is so Old Economy. Your tired and dated irrationalities are very restricting for the new pursuit-of-wealth methodology (namely: make business plan, take it public, cash out, retire). Now go out and sink more of your retirement funds into www.GreenWhalesForSale.com and www.NicheServiceOffering.com ... and W*I*N B*I*G!
    • Re:Profit? (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      No
      Infact their accumulated deficit is $2.7billion per the latest filing
      http://sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1018724 /0001193 12504176356/d10q.htm
    • Re:Profit? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by kaedemichi255 (834073)

      No, I do not belive they have. But on the same topic, why is that important? I guess it could be important to you, judging by your username ;). Here is a quote from a about Amazon.com's "undeserved kudos" for innovation: [marketwatch.com]

      The author or co-author of 11 books about branding and marketing thinks the man behind Amazon.com does not deserve the kudos of Business Week magazine. Al Ries said Jeff Bezos should not be touted as one of the greatest innovators of the past 75 years because ... Amazon.com doesn't make

      • I agree that there's no consistent relationship between profit and innovation. However, I'm not sure if Amazon is particulary innovative either.

        As far as profit is concerned, it's perfectly natural for investers to be more interested in that then pure innovation or creativity. It's also natural for publications that cater to investers to take an interest in profits as well.

        In general companies that aren't profitable will go out of business, and will no longer have the opportunity to be innovative.
  • Netflix (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stephen (20676) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @01:16PM (#11304371) Homepage
    On the Netflix question, what he didn't say was that amazon.co.uk is already offering that service. I didn't realise that the US branch wasn't, actually. I'm sure they will do it in the US soon.

    He's probably right that Amazon wouldn't need to market it, and in the UK, it's much cheaper than the competing services (£7.99 per month for up to four rentals, two at a time; or £9.99/six/three).
  • Amazon's growth... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord_Scrumptious (552119) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @01:32PM (#11304412)

    Do physical bookstores have anything to offer that Amazon doesn't?

    Actually, one thing I find easier (and more enjoyable) in a physical bookstore is actually browsing for different titles along a shelf (or shelves). You might be looking for a particular title, but it's always interesting to see what other titles are stacked up next to it. Yes, you can "browse" online, but it feels more cumbersome to me and doesn't match the pleasure of browsing in a real bookstore (or library). What's more, Amazon's website has quite a cluttered feel to it. There are so many bits of information on a single page (including adverts from other vendors), it sometimes feels as if you're being bombarded with the hard sell.

    I've ordered many times from Amazon and have no complaints about their customer service. However, they've grown so large (and continue to grow), I do worry about their influence and how they might exert it over other vendors, publishers, writers etc.

    And speaking of the hard sell, is the recent "Amazon Theater" a foretaste of things to come? Product-placement taken to a new level i.e. films designed primarily to sell products. Not something to look forward to. How long before we see weblinks on a DVD that take you direct to an Amazon page where you can buy product X as featured in the movie you just watched?

    What about videos? Netflix says it believes you're going to enter their rental-by-mail business.

    Amazon UK have already started a DVD rental service. Perhaps it's a way for Amazon to test the waters before launching the service in the US?

    • by paulbd (118132) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @01:50PM (#11304501) Homepage

      I was the 2nd programmer at amazon.com, back before it was even called amazon.com. When we started, I desperately wanted to offer a browsing technique that would model "dialing down" a search in a huge library - being able to browse the "gardening" section, then realize you were interested in "flower gardening", then "flower gardening, pacific northwest" and then focusing on "history of flower gardening, pacific northwest".

      I was therefore very upset to find that there was no way to do this. The Library of Congress could not or would not provide us with their complete category lists, and the company that distributes Books in Print provides the LoC classification data in a format that has been garbaged to the point that you can longer reconstruct heirarchies.

      I struggled on with the idea for a while, but we just had to give up. Its been a long term regret of mine.

      • by great om (18682)
        go to oclc http://www.oclc.org/ (they have all the library class classification you need)

        they sell their data. This is where librarians actually get the data we use for public access catalogs

        - a librarian
        • i haven't worked for amazon in about 8 years. i don't believe OCLC existed in its present form in 1994, and they certainly didn't have electronic versions of the data, because we were told by most librarians that the LoC was the only possible source. the LoC had an FTP-based version, but it was subject to random updates and was very unreliable in terms of connectivity. it may be all much better now, in which case it is a shame that amazon doesn't do this.

          • What made you leave the company? Was this a decision that you regretted?
            • There were lots of reasons. I left very early, after only 14 months. I had a new daughter, her mother was about to finish her Ph.D and move, life was getting a little crazy.

              But the biggest reason that was actually related to Amazon.com itself was the corporate culture I sensed Jeff wanting to build. This is best illustrated by a short story. Early on, Jeff, Shel and I would often quote the old saying "you can work long, you can work hard, you can work smart, but you only pick 2 out of 3". At that time,

      • When we started, I desperately wanted to offer a browsing technique that would model "dialing down" a search in a huge library

        Barnes and Noble offer a "Book Browser" feature at their website [barnesandnoble.com] - they even have a flash demo that demonstrates how to use the feature. It's not a perfect browsing tool, but it does offer you the option of drilling down to a more granular level as you mention. Browsing for books at the Barnes and Noble website is certainly easier than browsing at Amazon.

    • I've found Listmania to be a good way to browse books. For example, if you're looking at a Chess book, you'll see a Listmania link. If you click on it, you'll see some user's list of recommended chess books. It's a very useful feature.

      The most interesting thing about Amazon is that whenever you are searching for books on a particular topic, you can easily find the cream-of-the-crop within minutes. Reviews for books inevitably talk about other good books in the field, and it doesn't take long before yo
  • by happyhippy (526970) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @01:39PM (#11304452)
    Its all recent 'popular' stuff now on offer, and less and less old rare or cult items.
    For instance a year or two ago they had a good selection of chinese and japanese action films. Hell, from every country. Now its just a couple of 'popular' ones that made it so US cinemas alredy.

    And where the hell is Von Triers The Kingdom series 2 Amazon? You have the woefully bad Stephen Kings abortion, yet dont have the second part of the original.

  • by Mordibity (16804) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @01:45PM (#11304481)
    What I thought was most interesting was his comment about search-inside-the book. When that feature debuted, I remember reading a highly-rated comment here on /. by someone who's spouse was in the book biz who thought that it would be death for cookbooks and reference works since people could get the info piecemeal instead of buying the book. And yet Bezos says they were worried a little about that, too, but relative sales in those categories increased the most!
  • by Dachannien (617929) on Sunday January 09, 2005 @02:34PM (#11304754)
    We wondered about things like cookbooks and reference titles - would people just take the snippet they need and not buy the book? In fact, by letting people search inside, sales of these types of books have gone up more than average.
    • Key quote in the article.
    • We wondered about things like cookbooks and reference titles - would people just take the snippet they need and not buy the book? In fact, by letting people search inside, sales of these types of books have gone up more than average

      you can't read the entire book. Only a few pages from it. The only way this would be like the music situation on the internet, would be if every book had a free e-book equivalent, allowing anyone to test the book out before purchasing.
      • Except that in "cookbooks and reference titles" the relevant material is chunked up into small sections which can stand alone, much like individual tracks from a CD. Bezos's comment was that people weren't just ripping off the individual available quanta of information, they were using it to determine whether the rest of the book was worth purchasing.

        The problem is that the "mainstream" distribution channels for previewed music are severely biased. Music industry execs don't hype the suck-ass tracks on t
  • If you're interested in Jeff Bezos and the interview has left you wondering more still, check out the conversation with him posted at ITConversations from the Web 2.0 Conference. Jeff talks about Amazon and entertains questions from the audience.

    IT Conversations - Jeff Bezos [itconversations.com]
  • I am surprised he didn't mention Amazon's new references feature. It notes which other books reference the one you're browsing in their footnotes or bibliography. This feature was introduced quietly but has made a world of difference in my search for technical & academic works.

    I'd imagine they've seen a slight rise in purchases by self-study students and researchers as a result.

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