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This is why Amazon is a retail superpower

Before the phone, the world's biggest bookshelf was already branching out to keep you close

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Amazon was created in 1994 as a novel way to buy books, and for more than 10 years, the Seattle-based company stuck with that business model. As internet use exploded, Amazon started to sell more products — video games, DVDs, electrical goods. In 2006, the company made a departure from this model, detailing plans for its first major piece of hardware. Naturally, for the world's biggest bookseller, it was a novel way to buy its books: the Kindle.

An early model of the Kindle was leaked in September of that year, but it was November 2007 when the device finally went on sale in the United States. It was an ugly, angular creation, with offset keys that threatened to tumble from the keyboard and a creamy color scheme that looked like a PC purchased in 2001, but the core idea was solid. Over the next few years, Amazon rapidly iterated on its e-reader, making it thinner, clearer, brighter, and more responsive, before turning it into a full-fledged tablet to compete with iPads and Android devices. As Amazon helped changed how we bought books, the company also did its part in popularizing e-readers, changing how we consume them, and securing millions of repeat customers in the process.

Perhaps emboldened by the success of Kindle, Amazon has continued its experiments in recent years. In addition to books, blenders, and baby clothes, shoppers in the US can now order their groceries using AmazonFresh, or pick up their goods from unattended lockers like assassins collecting dead drops. The company has pursued outlandish concepts as it has grown, staffing its warehouses with orange bumpercar-esque robots and promising to deliver products by drone, but it has also followed market trends with products such as Fire TV.

But even as it diversified, Amazon has remembered its core business. Amazon's e-readers, tablets, and set-top boxes are ways for users to buy into its vast stores of digital media; its new delivery services are ways to bring its warehouses' physical products to you faster.

Next up, Amazon plans to release its own phone. It's a risk: while the success of the Kindle shows it has hardware nous, it'll be pushing the device into a crowded and difficult market. We'll have to wait a few years to see how successful the device becomes, but before that, we'll need to know how it works. Follow The Verge's liveblog of today's Amazon event to see the first public unveiling of the company's next step.

The evolution of Amazon


Amazon announced its "frustration-free packaging" initiative in 2008. The company made efforts to do away with oversized plastic containers that necessitated both scissors and accidental bloodshed to open, replacing them with tear-open wallets and easily accessible boxes.