If a big Barnes & Noble had 150,000 books in stock, Amazon had a million! And if Barnes & Noble had taken its books to lonely highways where previously there had been no bookstores, Amazon was taking books to places where there weren’t even highways. As long as you had a credit card, and the postal service could reach you, you suddenly had the world’s largest bookstore at your fingertips.
It can be overstated that whatever Amazon has done to book publishing is to democratize knowledge. The first movement of opening up access to any book to virtually any person anywhere was substantial; however, the second move of making so much of the knowledge within books deliverable electronically to anyone with a computer, phone, or Kindle was even bigger — and while we give lip service to the importance of opening up knowledge, there is an award tension between this democratization and the elitism of old school book publishing.