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Amazon Accelerates Its Move to Digital

The New York Times has an interesting article this morning about Amazon's move to digital content via Audible (audio books), Amazon Unbox (movies and TV shows), Amazon MP3 (unprotected music), and the Kindle (eBooks). There's just one thing: I don't quite get the title of the article. If anything, the article suggests that Amazon is doing nothing more than moving at its typically slow, deliberate pace. Anyway:

Last week, Apple proclaimed that its iTunes store had surpassed Wal-Mart Stores to become the No. 1 source of music sales in the United States. Amazon, which still sells mostly CDs, was the No. 3 seller last year but has since lost market share and is now tied with Target for fourth place. Best Buy is No. 3.

As is typical of executives at Amazon, its digital chiefs are stingy with details about their plans. But in an interview, they emphasized the importance of the company’s new online offerings and said a sense of urgency now underlies its digital efforts.

Amazon has reached, in a sense, the end of Phase One of its digital media rollout. The Kindle was introduced in December. The company unveiled its digital TV and movie store, Amazon Unbox, in the fall of 2006 and gave TiVo owners access to the service directly from their televisions last summer.

The MP3 music store arrived last fall after years of rumors about its development. Amazon’s digital executives said they worked on the service for four years.

Amazon does not release sales figures for its digital initiatives, so their initial success is difficult to gauge, although by all accounts the MP3 store has quickly become one of the top sellers of digital music.

In general, Amazon’s digital team expresses urgency but does not appear to be in a rush. Mr. Kessel noted that it took the company five to seven years to build many of its businesses — books, consumer electronics — to maturity. He expects digital offerings to follow the same path.

"One of the assets of Amazon, we believe, is a culture that supports investment in future businesses," he said. "You have to be patient and you have to be relentless as a company to be able to do that."

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