Amazon is not the good guy

I’ve piled up four links in short order that detail some of the problems with Amazon, and why, despite an increasing insistence in their PR that they’re your ally, they’re on the side of the consumer, they’re your friend against those meanie-face businesses like publishers . . . they are not the good guy. At best, they are a guy, who will sometimes help you and sometimes screw you over. (The problem is, a lot of the “help” is of the sort that evaporates as soon as they’re in a position to screw you over.)

So, the links:

Cat Valente first, on the notion of book subscriptions, and how Amazon keeps muscling their way toward monopoly.

Next Borderlands Books (San Francisco indie bookstore), on their sketchy business behavior. (Scroll down to “From the Office” to find the relevant part.)

And then, Anand Giridharadas in the NYT, on the fraying of decency, and what Amazon does to achieve such low prices and fast shipping.

Finally, just as a chaser, the privacy issues with the new Kindle Fire.

I won’t deny that Amazon is useful. I still order things from them occasionally. But I’ve taken my book business elsewhere whenever possible — Powell’s, IndieBound, and local stores — and I am not looking forward to the Brave New World in which everything is published through Amazon, for reading on an Amazon device, so that Amazon knows everything I do, with Amazon deciding how much I pay for that material or get paid when people buy what I wrote, because they’ve ground all their competitors out of existence.

It’s like a hybrid of 1984 and Snow Crash. Stephenson was almost right about corporations ruling the future; his error was in using the plural.

0 Responses to “Amazon is not the good guy”

  1. mindstalk

    I don’t have time pre-flight to check; does one of those cover the sweatshop conditions?

    I think plural still applies, unless you’re just talking the book market; Amazon’s got competition from Google in “know all you do”. Facebook and Apple have their own walled gardens. These all brush up against each other but they’re not in direct core competition; Facebook doesn’t touch books, Amazon and Apple don’t touch messaging AFAIK. There’s room for multiple overlapping corporations to know everything about you and censor what you see!

    BTW, I’ve finally discovered aggregation, and realized part of the appeal of Facebook or Google+ or for that matter LJ is aggregating your friends. But with RSS, you roll your own aggregation, like a virtual friends page or newspaper. Shared open protocol, not shared ad-supported service.

  2. pentane

    Assuming book publishing is the entirity of reality, I might agree with your last statement.

    • Marie Brennan

      I was being hyperbolic — but not entirely, since Amazon also sells a lot of other things, and would probably love to use similar tactics against other industries, if they can get themselves in a position to manage it.

  3. Anonymous

    The nature of everything

    Hi, definitely some good points. Particularly about worker treatment
    and warehouse conditions.

    As for the kindle, the experience of reading one one and
    carrying one around is so great it’s hard to justify not getting one
    now that they have the library system integration in place. Especially after
    moving 10 boxes of books. I realize nothing is free, the kindle has to
    be made somewhere and has to run on power, but the thing I never see
    in these types of opinion pieces is what is the footprint of all those
    books? In terms of production, trees, labor, (i’d venture to say) a factory for making paper, transportation and the fossil fuel needed for it…I do like books and bookshops, but I also hate carrying them, and hate moving them…so yeah, not sure how to reconcile that.

    As for privacy concerns, yes, it’s a minor issue. But it’s the same
    issue people have had for years with libraries, credit cards, and
    utilities (electricity in particular), ezpass, mobile phones, internet service, etc… You either live off the grid in a cabin somewhere or you’re part of the system and there’s not much you can do about it at the moment.

    What are your opinions about Amazon as an author? It would be interesting to see what kind of response self-publishing electronically through Amazon would get you without the use of a publishing company.

    Maybe you’d consider donating some portion of money made through Amazon to a local book store or library and maybe you’d feel not so bad for still occasionally supporting big A.

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: The nature of everything

      I don’t know the specific answer about the the relative footprints of a physical book and an e-book, but you’re right that it’s something to consider. (I’m not anti-e-book as a basic stance; I don’t have an e-reader myself, but that’s because of the privacy concerns, and DRM, and the attempts to control where I can buy the files or what I can read them on, etc. Once things settle down, I may well pick one up.)

  4. raisinfish

    Fortunately, we do have anti-trust legislation. So Amazon will build their dystopia, destroy a bunch of careers, only to be broken up into pieces again so that others can compete.

  5. elliemurasaki

    Trouble with IndieBound is there are no indie bookstores in this state, apparently, except the pagan bookstore downtown and the gay bookstore downstate, neither of which, as you can imagine, has a particularly expansive selection of things that are not in their respective niches. There’s a bitty bookstore chain, but that’s not the same thing.

  6. Marie Brennan

    . . . that is a fabulous icon. 😀

    • jennifergale

      Sokka’s expressions and moods often match my own. Although, if I could really do that with my eyebrows…well, that’d just be dang creepy.

Comments are closed.