A little more than three months after he stepped down as chairman of Random House, Peter Olson is looking forward to teaching corporate strategy to Harvard Business School students, beginning in January. Olson and his family moved to Cambridge, Mass., over the summer and Olson is using the current semester to refamiliarize himself with a place he once knew very well—Olson attended and graduated from Harvard College, Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. “I love Cambridge and I love Harvard Square,” he said.

As an HBS faculty member, Olson will use the school's famed case study method to examine corporate strategies at a variety of companies, ranging from Apple to Wal-Mart. No book publishers or booksellers will be reviewed in his class, but that doesn't mean Olson doesn't miss certain aspects of his old job. “I miss the books, getting hold of advance reading copies, seeing a book become an unexpected bestseller,” Olson said. He doesn't miss budgets and corporate politics, suggesting that the most tiresome part of a CEO's job is dealing with corporate infighting.

Asked about the state of publishing, Olson said he believes Amazon is in a strong position that will only get stronger, making it the industry's dominant player. He theorized that within a few years, Amazon could reconfigure the entire industry if it chooses to do so. Olson said that in addition to Amazon's “critical position”—that it sells and markets books directly to customers—the company has access to a tremendous amount of information about the buying and reading habits of its customers. “There's never been anything like it,” Olson said. Publishers would find it difficult to compete with Amazon at the retail level because of the tremendous volume the company's site attracts. Publishers might be able to draw some customers by selling special titles—like signed first editions—that are not Amazon's “bread and butter.” The Internet also gives publishers great marketing opportunities that could be exploited to sell certain books directly. “If Dan Brown ever finishes his next book, that e-mail blast would get lots of attention,” Olson suggested.

Despite the challenges facing publishing, Olson said he found it a great industry to be involved with: “There are few industries that can be as rewarding as publishing. Especially for people who love books.”