I've watched Amazon since it announced and became Yahoo Cool Site of the Day 3 days later. There were already 100 online bookstores online. Books.com (Book Stacks) had a good reputation and a selection of 250,000 books. The biggest Barnes & Noble stores at the time had 170,000 and that was considered amazing since Walmart only had 65,000 items in its biggest stores.
I had left my job just a few days earlier to start a bookstore, Fatbrain.com, and I couldn't understand how Amazon could make it. The 1 million books they listed were from a Books in Print list, they didn't actually have them nor could get half of them if you placed an order.
I thought that was dumb so we built a warehouse in Kentucky next door to the UPS hub. Having the books and promising they could ship same day launched us from $0 to $100 million in sales in 4 years, and we had a good public offering on the NASDAQ. A few years later during the .com stock collapse Barnes & Noble bought us because they were considered a real business with stores. Amazon couldn't buy us because their stock had collapsed too.
But John Doerr on Amazon's board had made a genius move that saw Amazon through the time that put a lot of Internet companies out of business: he hired a logistics guy from Walmart and raised over a billion dollars for Amazon to see them through their sea of losses. Without that, Amazon doesn't exists.
Warren Buffet just said, during his investor conference, ""The truth is that I've watched Amazon from the start and I think what Jeff Bezos has done is something close to a miracle, and the problem is if I think something is going to be a miracle I tend not to bet on it."