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Jeff Bezos is no stranger to multi-part newspaper stories, but the Financial Times does a particularly good job of putting the Seattle company in perspective and explaining its economic impact — positive and negative — in a series of articles running this week.

This overview piece is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the company and its influence over online commerce. (Reading the articles online requires free registration, but it’s worth the hassle in this case.)

The series covers a wide range of topics, asserting that Amazon is not just a technology giant but a utility — providing vital infrastructure that supports and fuels the businesses of third-party retailers and other startups. At the same time, Amazon is a threat to many of those same companies, with its ability to use its intimate knowledge of their businesses to compete with them.

Exhibit A in the Financial Times piece is a family retailer called GoVacuum, which has built its business with the help of Amazon’s platforms but also watched as the company has entered its category with the advantage of knowing the inside details about its sales.

The FT says, “Mr Bezos has created a transaction engine that is reinventing the way entrepreneurs can do business. If his ambition is to colonise the entire infrastructure of consumption, it is not likely to be Amazon’s technological skills that set the limits, but the world’s willingness to accept him.”

Here’s the full piece and the landing page for the series.

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