Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yet Another Anti-Amazon Screed;
This One Comparing the Online Behemoth to Your Local Indie

I usually try to keep the anti-Amazon sentiment to just one post per week, but once a rule is broken...well, I figure I might as well just smash it to bits. That's why we're making 'Bashing The House That Bezos Built' this week's Official Blog Theme. (Cuz who doesn't love a themed pity party?) Plus, negativity is just sooo much easier to write!
Today's installment comes courtesy of West Coast wunderkind, AutumnBottom. It's an OP-ED piece from Slog writer and former bookstore worker, Paul Constant. Its title is Re: Yeah, OK, But.... Its topic is The Big A vs. the little us.
Here are a handful of highlights:

It is true that businesses exist to make money. Nobody would create a business with the intent to lose money unless that person is either A) a scam artist or B) the government. But the economic issues that we're dealing with right now seem to prove (to me, at least) that successful businesses will keep making money until they become too huge to be healthy for the rest of us. They don't have an "OK, that's enough money" valve. It's a complex issue. We used to have monopoly and antitrust laws to protect the public from giant companies going bad or getting too goddamned big, but the government has pretty much been defanged in that respect.


There are two main issues with Amazon that booksellers struggle with: 1) The enormous selection coupled with the 24/7 availability and 2) the discounted prices. No brick and mortar bookstore is available all day, every day, and no one physical location can contain all the books that Amazon has on its website. That's why I will sometimes browse on Amazon when I'm looking up books about a specific topic and then go find the books in a real store. (Inkwell interjects: What's funny about this is, most Amazombies do exactly the opposite!) The number of books that I've positively had to have within 12 hours of learning of their existence is really very small.


I consider the prices I have to pay at bookstores—not actually inflated prices, but the actual price listed on the book, and a price that is not actually that much higher than the bookstore has to pay for the book—part of the "urban tax" on having all these wonderful places nearby for me to enjoy. Amazon has never recommended a book to me that has changed my life, but real, living booksellers do this all the time. Amazon recommends similar books and books that other people moved on to. It's a lateral recommendation system, and it simply can't take the glorious leaps that sometimes happen when you engage a real person in a real human interaction.

To read the whole piece, click here.
(To feel utterly irrelevant, stick around for the comments.)