Jeff Bezos on Amazon's success.

Dec. 24 2009 10:13 AM

"We Start With the Customer and We Work Backward."

Jeff Bezos on Amazon's success.

This conversation appears in Newsweek's "Interview" issue. To read more of the magazine's interviews with the year's biggest newsmakers, go to Newsweek.com.

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Lyons:Is there a next phase where the novel gets reinvented and the new digital medium gives rise to new art forms?

Bezos: I'm skeptical that the novel will be "re­invented." If you start thinking about a medical textbook or something, then, yes, I think that's ripe for reinvention. You can imagine animations of a beating heart. But I think the novel will thrive in its current form. That doesn't mean that there won't be new narrative inventions as well. There very well may be. In fact, there probably will be. But I don't think they'll displace the novel.

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Lyons:So an Apple tablet would be a companion to the Kindle?

Bezos: Absolutely. We've got Kindle for PC. And we're working on Kindle for the Mac. Our vision is that we want you to be able to read Kindle books wherever you want to read your Kindle books.

Lyons:Ultimately do you not even care about selling the physical Kindle itself?

Bezos: No, we do care. Our goal with the Kindle device is separate from the Kindle bookstore. With the Kindle bookstore, wherever you want to read we're going to support you. And then for the Kindle device, we want that to be the world's best purpose-built reading device. It's not a Swiss Army knife. It's not going to do a bunch of different things. We believe that reading deserves a dedicated device, and we want Kindle to be that device. It's like a digital camera. I like having the digital camera on my smart phone, but I also like having a dedicated camera for when I want to take real pictures.

Lyons:Do you think that the ink-on-paper book will eventually go away?

Bezos: I do. I don't know how long it will take. You know, we love stories and we love narrative; we love to get lost in an author's world. That's not going to go away; that's going to thrive. But the physical book really has had a 500-year run. It's probably the most successful technology ever. It's hard to come up with things that have had a longer run. If Gutenberg were alive today, he would recognize the physical book and know how to operate it immediately. Given how much change there has been everywhere else, what's remarkable is how stable the book has been for so long. But no technology, not even one as elegant as the book, lasts forever.

Lyons:Do you still read books on paper?

Bezos: Not if I can help it.

Daniel Lyons is a technology columnist at Newsweek.

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