Amazon.com was only 2 months old when Seattle Times reporter Elizabeth Pérez wrote about the fledgling, virtual bookstore. Now the company is worth nearly half a trillion dollars.
It was 22 years ago. Jeff Bezos was 31 years old. And Amazon.com was in its infancy.
“Store on Internet is open book: Amazon.com boasts more than 1 million titles on Web,” read The Seattle Times 1995 headline in the business section on E3.
It was this news organization’s first reference to Bezos and his fledgling, 2-month-old company, which is now worth nearly half a trillion dollars and has made its founder on Thursday, briefly, the richest man on the planet.
Times reporter Paige Cornwell dug into our archives to find the mention.
The story, by then-reporter Elizabeth Pérez, leads with the tease of a “big, new bookstore in town” — that you won’t find on a Seattle street. Instead, Pérez wrote, you’ll need to “hook up to the Internet” to order books at $3 per order, plus 95 cents per book.
In the story, University of Michigan marketing professor Sunil Gupta, who was studying Internet marketing at the time, estimated the total number of “World Wide Web” users from 2 million to 13.5 million. (It’s more like 3.5 billion users today.)
But back then, traditional publishers were notoriously unworried about Bezos’ online vision. Amazon as competition? No way.
“I don’t think you’ll ever be able to substitute coming in and looking through the book that you want,” said Kristin Kennell, the night manager at Elliott Bay Book Co.
Elliott Bay and Village Books in Bellingham were a part of the online market in ’95, maintaining websites that allowed customers to order books by email.
Now, books seem like an Amazon afterthought as the retail juggernaut delivers — within hours or days — anything from booze to beach umbrellas.
How has Bezos himself fared? Not too shabby.