Amazon’s Assault

Amazon emerged victorious from the ‘Ebook Wars’, their fleet of multi-attack Kindles establishing virtual air dominance, decimating Barnes and Nobles’s woefully under-equipped Nook to such an extent that the company announced in June that they would no longer be manufacturing them.

The world is now being ravaged by ‘The Pricing Wars’.  Recent battles have included vigilante book retailer Overstock counter-attacking Amazon with a massive bestselling hardcover title discounting offensive, the likes of which the world has never before witnessed.

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One suspects that this kamikaze act by Overstock is nothing more than a courageous but futile last stand that will result in inevitable surrender.  Amazon’s victorious army could soon be marching vast lines of defeated Overstock foot soldiers to what some have made out to be the gulags of the 21st Century, Amazon warehouses.  There have been accusations that poor treatment and tortuous work conditions are endemic in these tax avoidance enclaves.  Others have argued that Amazon has provided a valuable boost to the economy by bringing employment to these former desolate areas, an example being the erection of an Amazon work camp warehouse in remote Chattanooga, Tennessee, where President Obama recently gave a speech.

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This is not an isolated incident of defiance from the publishing industry in the face of Amazon’s prolonged assault.  From the smoking rubble of their bricks and mortar business, two former foes, Penguin and Random House have formed an alliance to fight the Axis under their new flag, Penguin Random House.

The rhetoric from the the publishing industry and anti-Amazon consumers alike is that Amazon’s attack on their holy city of literature is personal, but in reality it is anything but.  Amazon’s autocrat Jeff Bezos is by many accounts not the personal type.  Former Amazon subordinate Steve Yegge described Bezos as being a;

“hyper-intelligent alien with a tangential interest in human affairs.”

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Whatever Bezos’s true nature it can appear to the neutral observer that Bezos has a particular disliking for bricks and mortar; the shattered  remnants of the high street bears testimony to this.  Many would no doubt not be  surprised if Bezos’s disdain for bricks and mortar extended to him rejecting housing in favour of living in a pod.

Amazon may well have waged war against the publishing industry, but it is no different to what they have done with the music and film industries.  Pricing wars are the order of the day with these too, with discounts of up to 69% on many popular film and television series DVDs.

It is generally considered to be ill-advisable to bite the hand that feeds you and with Amazon’s food delivery service, Amazon Fresh, extending their venture from Seattle to Los Angeles it appears only a matter of time before they will be doing exactly that.

(Click to read Amazon Part 1 and Part 2)

4 Comments

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  • As an author of three speculative fiction novels published now exclusively via Amazon channels (paper and e-book), with sales globally, I view Amazon’s aggressiveness as simply progress and business. I understand the sadness over the elimination of book stores and competitive e-book distribution and reader devices but must say I truly enjoy the very advanced services from Amazon in meeting my wants & needs as both a reader and those of an author/publisher. Note: without Amazon I believe I would not be able to cite the claim, “with sales globally.”

    By way of comparison, I have always preferred travel by train over any other mass transit mechanism, but do not view the aggressiveness of the airlines industry in their attempt to eliminate passenger train travel (and they got massive aid from Uncle Sam), as some sort of an evil plan. I look at it as simply progress and business and try to adapt.

    • That is very rational G.Hugh. It is a food chain after all and it always has been. If authors and publishers don’t like it then they can always withdraw their books from Amazon. Whatever happens I hope that there will be some book shops left, if only for nostalgic purposes. Perhaps Bezos might consider leaving some as monuments to a bygone era. Thank you for your comment. Hope all is going well with your books.

  • I think Overstock’s strategy is to take a loss on the books and get the new customers that the books attract to buy other products (to more than make up for the loss). I don’t know enough about Overstock to have an opinion about that strategy. I guess in a few months (or years), I’ll have a better opinion of it.

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