A decade after he started Amazon in his garage, Jeff Bezos has watched it grow into one of the Internet's powerhouses, with everything from a new search engine to a "screening room" for downloading short films. He sat down with TIME's Jeffrey Ressner in Amazon's Seattle headquarters, a refurbished veteran's hospital, to talk about books, stock prices and bird spikes.
HERE'S A QUESTION YOU PROBABLY HEAR ALL THE TIME: READ ANY GOOD BOOKS LATELY? [Laughs.] I read a book recently about Toyota's lean production methodology, which is very interesting. I'm reading a new Alastair Reynolds science-fiction book about Earth being destroyed by nanobots. And I've been reading about rocket-engine development.
AMAZON'S STOCK PRICE HAS FALLEN 17% OVER THE PAST 12 MONTHS. WILL THERE BE BOOM TIMES AGAIN? We went public at a split-adjusted price of $1.50 a share, and it's gone to $38 a share in eight years, which is unusual performance by any measure. We focus on things that matter to customers, not the stock price, which takes care of itself. The business results generated by the company? This is by far our best year ever.
THE STOCK PRICES OF EBAY, YAHOO! AND AMAZON HAVE ALL BEEN OFF THIS YEAR, WHILE GOOGLE'S STOCK HAS SHOT THROUGH THE ROOF. YOUR THOUGHTS? This is a big world, and there are going to be lots of winners. Others don't have to lose for us to win. We stay heads down, focused on what we know will help us build a lasting company that improves customers' lives. Wall Street doesn't like us lowering prices, and we don't care.
AMAZON JUST BOUGHT A CUSTOM-PUBLISHING FIRM. ANY CHANCE YOU'LL DO YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY AND PUT IT OUT YOURSELF? Wait and see. It's still chapter one for Amazon. I think there'll be more happening on the Internet over the next 10 years than in the last 10. Over the next decade, the raw materials--technology, computers, disc space, bandwidth--will get cheaper and more powerful at a very rapid rate. Our job is to figure out how to layer invention on top of those raw materials to make things that actually matter to people.
SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT STEP IN TO LEGISLATE AGAINST SPYWARE AND COMPANIES THAT LOSE PERSONAL DATA? I don't know. Even things that are most annoying today, like viruses and spam--a lot of it is already illegal. Unfortunately, there are a small number of bad actors who do these things. The companies that create the operating systems have to play this cat-and-mouse game.
IS THERE A HIGH-TECH DEVICE YOU CAN'T DO WITHOUT? I definitely like my BlackBerry. I like my digital camera. I'm amazed that you can buy something for $200 that can hold 488 8-megapixel photos. It's incredible.
YOU HAVE BEEN SHOWING SHORT MOVIES ON AMAZON. WHAT'S THE LONG-TERM PLAN FOR AMAZON AND VIDEO DELIVERY? Over time it may be possible to do high-quality video delivery over the Internet. It's something we've thought about for years, but most people don't have the kind of bandwidth they'd need to get full-length motion pictures delivered.