Amazon Plows Ahead in E-Books, Electronics, and Retail—An Update

For some reason, it has been even harder than usual to keep up with Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) this month. Here’s a quick roundup of the week’s most interesting news regarding the Internet giant’s place in the e-book and retail world.

—Every day, it seems like a new e-book reader comes on the market to compete with Amazon’s Kindle—and further complicate the options and proprietary format issues for consumers. A New York Times piece this week examines Amazon’s strategy of pushing its own Kindle format while also acquiring Mobipocket and Lexcycle, companies that sell e-books and reader software for smartphones. The piece quotes Neelan Choksi, Lexcycle’s co-founder who’s now based in Seattle, about giving e-book consumers options.

—Last week, TechFlash published a graphic entitled “E-Book Universe,” which maps out the role of the various players in reader devices, content providers, mobile applications, and wireless carriers, and how they all relate to one another. It’s not a comprehensive chart, but it gives you an immediate sense of how convoluted the industry has become.

—Amazon has always been about more than just books (digital or not). Last weekend, the company launched its own line of electronics accessories, called Amazon Basics, as reported by The Wall Street Journal and other outlets. For now, the product line will focus on inexpensive items like blank DVDs and audio-video cables. “We saw an opportunity to create a line of consumer electronics basics that combine quality and low prices for an overall focus on value,” said Paul Ryder, Amazon’s vice president of consumer electronics, in a statement.

—In a feature published last Sunday, The New York Times asks whether the company will become the “Wal-Mart of the Web.” The article points out that Amazon threatens to put big retailers out of business the same way it has outcompeted independent booksellers and other stores. The Times notes that in the quarter ending in June, Amazon’s worldwide sales of books, music, videos, and other media grew 1 percent, to $2.4 billion, while its sales of everything else (electronics and general merchandise) grew by 35 percent to $2.07 billion, and are projected to take the lead later this year.

As Xconomy has reported previously, large retailers like Target, Borders, and Toys ‘R’ Us have ended their Web partnerships with Amazon in an effort to better compete with the Internet giant, which is now in the process of integrating its biggest acquisition to date—online clothing and shoe store Zappos.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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