I think it was Peter Drucker who said one of the toughest things about being in business is knowing what business you're in. He seems to echo the--largely folkloric, but still instructive--story of how Western Union took a bye on the telephone business because they were in telegraph, not telephone. Readers of Connie Bruck's superb When Hollywood Had a King--about Lew Wasserman, the entertainment bigfoot--will relate. Bruck's is one of my all-time favorite business books and no small part of its appeal is that it shows how Wasserman woke up every day wondering whether he was in the same business he had been in the day before, and how to respond to any changes he encountered.
With the benefit of hindsight, I'm wondering if Jeff Bezos ever met Lew Wasserman. It's becoming clearer every day that (a) what Amazon is selling is not machine, but content; and (b) that Amazon blew it by failing to grasp the point. As my bud Larry (who watches this stuff more closely than I) said this monring: "the surprise is it took them a while to learn it. Otherwise they'd have
brought out the Kindle originally for $50 instead of close to $400. And
they'd totally own the market." Indeed. Or just fired them down Main Street out of a cannon.