While reading various articles today about the forthcoming Amazon tablet, it struck me that of all the giant media companies entering this space, only Amazon routinely and successfully sells physical goods across a vast array of product categories—not just consumer electronics or digital media, but houseware, printed books, clothing, tools, toys, lamps, those little pet sweaters, luggage, and so on. An Amazon tablet that ships pre-loaded with access to everything Amazon has to offer, including its no-brainer payment options like One-Click and Prime, means it can provide something no other competitor can: a portable, interactive, instant-gratification sales catalog, the 21st century version of what last century’s retail giant Sears, Roebuck & Co. thrived on for 99 years.

I suspect Amazon won’t be able to fully realize this concept in the immediate future, but by controlling the hardware and the platform, the retailer can roll out shopping innovations (some early examples being Kindle with Special Offers and Windowshop) without being stymied by the whims of competitors like Apple.

Of course ebooks, magazines, newspapers and digital audio & video will be what people think of when they think of Amazon’s tablet, especially right now when the tablet category is still so new. But mail order merchandising has all but died out in recent years, both from rising postal costs and a consumer shift to interactive shopping online. I wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon’s long term plans include turning the Amazon tablet into a sort of magic catalog that gives shoppers immediate access to everything and anything the retailer sells—the world’s first real department store catalog for this century.

[Update: If this idea sounds familiar to long-time readers, it’s because Teleread founder David Rothman made pretty much the exact same observation first, back in 2007 and with respect to the original Amazon Kindle! See the post here.]

(Photo: Nesster)


  1. I’ve been referring to Amazon as the modern-day Wells Fargo Wagon, myself. Same thing. In the U.S. there has never not been a need — or at least a market — for reliable one-stop shopping in some form.

  2. What an excellent observation. The equivalent back home in Britain would be the Kayes catalog, delivered twice a year to your doorstep with payment options of up to 52 -weeks. Now that brings back some memories!!

  3. P.S. Thanks for the just-made link, Chris, and I can easily understand how you could independently think similar thoughts. And while we’re in touch, let me thank you and Chris M for some great posts. Keep up the good work for TeleRead! David

  4. Why do you think they couldn’t realize the goal of a “tablet that ships pre-loaded with access to everything Amazon has to offer, including its no-brainer payment options like One-Click and Prime”? It’s really almost as simple as panelizing a Chrome window. An experience app developer could probably pull together the pieces in a day. Look at how B&N integrates searching and preview downloads — no reason Amazon couldn’t do something similar.

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