In an interview with Charlie Rose of 60 Minutes on Sunday’s broadcast, Amazon founder/CEO Jeff Bezos spilled the beans on his latest bit of consumer wizardry — Prime Air, a by-drone delivery service that promises to have your stuff to you 30 minutes after you click the Buy button. Now before you go on a shopping spree to see how it works, know that this is still four to five years from coming to fruition.
(If it comes to fruition.)
Many on the Interwebs are already comparing Bezos to a mad scientist while tossing out the jumped shark references. To them, we say, “Are you insane?”
This man, this company, will make this happen. You can bank on it. How do we know? Well, let’s look at all the ways they’ve already changed our world. But first, here’s a video of Prime Air in action.
Now we begin:
Founded in 1994, Amazon began as an online bookstore, but it didn’t take long for it to spread its wings to music, movies, software, and video games. Since then, the company has added apparel, electronics, furniture, jewelry, and even groceries. Today, there isn’t much you can’t find at Amazon between its warehouses and its Z-shops. Amazon did for the new frontier of online shopping what Walmart did for retail. And that’s no small feat. The things we now take for granted, we take for granted because of these two companies.
Amazon was one of the first companies — and the first biggest — to have a free shipping option for online sales. Their initial guarantee was this: buy $25 or more worth of stuff, and never pay a dime for shipping. Yes, it took longer to get your orders, but hey, you get what you pay for! Then, they did something about the quality of service by instituting the Amazon Prime membership. Free two-day shipping on all eligible items for around $80 per year. Now you had free shipping and super-fast delivery times.
In the last six years, Amazon’s Kindle platform has revolutionized the way books are published and sold and — for writers with any sense — how their contracts are structured. Depending on who you talk to, it’s also led to the death of washed-up non-innovators like Borders and Waldenbooks. Publishers, large retailers, and small bookstores hate Amazon, the latter of which is odd since Amazon is shutting down the large chains that nearly killed them and is turning print back into a niche market, which should benefit these smaller independents.
While the dated bookstore model allows companies to return unsold product, and it’s basically killed the mid-list writer, Amazon has a platform that cuts out the middleman and allows writers to take a 70 percent royalty as opposed to about 17.5 percent. Why would anyone publish with a big publisher when they have to sign away so many royalties for services like editing and design that can easily be paid for via a one-time charge? It’s a question more and more veteran writers are starting to ask.
Amazon didn’t create cloud computing but they certainly made it accessible to the consumer market and probably harnessed it to sell digital products better than any of the major players. Amazon electronics consumers can download any book, magazine, or movie that is available digitally through the service and have it waiting on them whenever they want it. As I sit here writing this article on an iPad Air, this fact is definitely not lost on me. Having to pay extra for iCloud kind of sucks when you compare it to the experience of shopping on a Kindle Fire HD. And speaking of that, let’s take a look at:
Tablets And EReaders
Ten years ago, if you would have told me that one day I would relish the thought of getting rid of all my books in favor of an eReader, I would have called you crazy. Then the Kindle came along and made me want to do just that. After the company’s initial black-and-white took off, they took a cue from Apple and brought their unique, user-friendly shopping experience to the color tablet, once again knocking it out of the park. While Amazon may not make the best tablet in the world, their devices make it incredibly easy to buy books, movies, TV shows, music, games, and other applications, most of which can be enjoyed on their tablets, a television screen, or even a competitor’s device. While Apple deserves major props for the design and functionality of their tablet experience, Amazon’s devices are much better slated to the masses and individuals on a budget.
Empowering The Consumer
Each of the above contributions work together for this — the sixth and final way Amazon has changed our world: empowering the consumer. For each innovation the company has successfully implemented, they’ve done so with an eye toward improving the customer experience. While we once had to listen to gatekeepers and corporations tell us what was best for us — what movies/books/music we should be consuming, how long we would have to wait before doing so, and how much a “fair” price actually was, we now have better accessibility, convenience, and costs as a result of Amazon’s tireless efforts to change our world.
They’ve succeeded thus far in doing just that, and there’s absolutely no reason to doubt that they can take an existing form of technology and do it all over again via Prime Air mail. A bet in their favor is certainly one we’d be willing to take.