Deborah Friedell reviews a biography of Bezos in the London Review of Books:
What he liked about books was that they were ‘pure commodities’: copies of the latest Stephen King sold online would be no better or worse than those sold in shops. But no actual shop was big enough to offer all the three million-plus books in print. Two distributors, Ingram and Baker & Taylor, handled distribution for most American publishers: Bezos wouldn’t have to make separate deals with each publishing house. Books also came assigned with International Standard Book Numbers and were catalogued on CD-ROM: that would save time, and Bezos was in a hurry.
The company’s motto was ‘Get Big Fast’. The Amazon isn’t just the largest river in the world: it’s larger than the next seven largest rivers combined. Bezos preferred the name Relentless.com, but friends persuaded him that it sounded sinister. (Type Relentless into an address bar and you still get directed to Amazon.) He also considered Bookmall.com (but he knew that soon enough he wouldn’t only be selling books) and Cadabra.com (sounded too much like ‘cadaver’). Naturally he couldn’t set up the business in New York – too many potential customers lived there, and he didn’t want to charge them all sales tax – but somewhere isolated would make it difficult to hire engineers. The compromise was Seattle: at least Microsoft was nearby.