Why didn’t I think of that!

I was probably one of the very first to buy a book via the Internet and an outfit called “Amazon.com.” And the minute I did, I just knew this one would be a keeper.

It’s annoying, because when I have an insight like that (which is rare), I’d like to profit from it. Buy the stock or something. (Sorry. It’s a private company.)

But at least it became a convenient way for me to buy books . . . and also, in my job, a convenient reference tool even if I had nothing to buy. (Such and such author going to be at dinner tonight? Hmm — check out the books she’s written by looking them up on Amazon.com.)

Then a couple of months ago the Wall Street Journal wrote all this up and their Internet server has been scuttling around the dance floor like a whirling dervish (this is the sum total of my understanding of how these things work).

But my guess is, even if you read the Journal story, you may not have tried it.

Well, click here and, if you are a book-buyer, go through the process of setting up an account. Thereafter, if you choose to buy anything, it’s really easy — and often discounted by more than enough to cover the shipping cost.

The “search” options are flexible and easy to get the hang of. You’ll get your choice of hardcover or paperback when both are available, your choice of shipping methods, free gift wrap — I mean, they are really doing this thing right.

You won’t be able to sit and read, and maybe meet a fellow book lover, as you can at Barnes & Noble superstores. But for many purposes, Amazon.com is really handy.

So how DO we profit from this? I’m not sure we can. (Well, we can always enjoy the books, of course.)

I guess Amazon.com is good for the book publishing industry, who will sell more books and bad for the traditional bookstores. But I don’t think the effect on any of them is reason enough to go long or short.

I do own some FedEx stock, because I think the Internet means millions and millions of extra shipments of books and everything else that you current carry home from a store but one day will arrive at your door via FedEx. I’d own UPS too, if it were public.

I wouldn’t short the bookstore chains because I’m not sure it’s a zero-sum game. Yes, people have only so much time to read books. But buying a book doesn’t mean you have to read it. I don’t get to read even a fraction of all the books I buy. So to a certain extent, Amazon.com will surely steal business from the chains. But lounging around a Barnes & Noble superstore is becoming quite a popular form of entertainment of a Friday evening, too, so I wouldn’t bet against them any time soon.


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