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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Why I won't buy a Kindle part III 
29th-Sep-2011 08:58 am
(part 1 is here)

I just read an article about Amazon's monopoly moves and market manipulation that makes Google and Microsoft look like transparent, up-front, open door players in the modern commercial world. I'm really pained to read it. It is going to require some interesting behavior modification on my part to put my money where my outrage is...

The article is here: Borderland Books, down at the "From the Office" post.

Oddly, the most heartbreaking thing for me is to find out that Amazon owns ABEbooks now. And that's kind of irrelevant, since it is still performing the function for which I use it, namely, putting me in touch with used book dealers who have what I want.

I'm putting this out as public. I don't think the previous posts were, because I'm not troll-bait. But this article is worth a heavy think.

ETA: I should clarify, in response to comments, that I'm not outraged. I'm just feeling pained. Big gorillas crush a lot of little guys, and bully a lot of little guys, and try to influence markets, and try to influence laws, and that makes me feel bad.
29th-Sep-2011 02:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link. That was interesting to read. It reads very much to me as "the state of doing business" these days ... I felt like I could replace "Amazon" with "Apple" ... which was helpful for me. I do some, minimal business with Apple (I own an iPod Touch), but I avoid doing much because I'm not fond of their business practices. On the other hand, I do a lot of business with Amazon, and I think I was just willfully ignoring their business practices because it was convenient for me.

Google's starting to look similar to me, too.

Gah. Why do things that make life convenient have to support practices I disapprove of?
29th-Sep-2011 02:22 pm (UTC)
Why do things that make life convenient have to support practices I disapprove of?

Indeed. As I said above, now I have to make an effort to put my money where my outrage is. Argh, oh the pain of the inconvenience of it all!

Edited at 2011-09-29 02:22 pm (UTC)
29th-Sep-2011 02:19 pm (UTC)
One of his complaints is that the Kindle is priced below cost in order to lure you into the system. But of course, he as a bookstore owner, is doing the exact same thing when he charges you nothing for walking into his store (even though you're adding to congestion, tracking in mud, etc.).

The much bigger issue is the proprietary formats that lock you into the Amazon system for life. But for me, there's a clear solution to that: I have my Kindle (bought for less than cost per the above) loaded with hundred of free books. (Everything that' out of copyright is free.) Only very rarely do I pay for a Kindle book. There are a lot of $12.99 Kindle books out there, but few of them are as good a Barchester Towers, or The Age of Innocence --- and life is short enough that I'll probably never exhaust the supply of great books from that era. So why pay?
29th-Sep-2011 02:24 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. Loss-leaders, and overhead, and other Unaccounted for Energy (in electrical terms) are all a part of doing business.

Your preference for classics makes me smile wistfully. I am, unfortunately, a pop-junkie.
29th-Sep-2011 04:18 pm (UTC) - a few of my reasons
Because a lot of authors are my friends. Because books from the "classic" era are often chock-full of racism and sexism. Because I like to read SF, which with few exceptions doesn't hold up well with the passage of time.

That said, give me a paperback. Their batteries don't run out and you don't feel quite so bad when you drop them in a mud puddle.
29th-Sep-2011 02:26 pm (UTC)
Oddly enough, I didn't experience much outrage from it. I agree that they throw their weight around and are a corporate bully, but that's how you become the nine hundred pound gorilla. Nothing that they're doing is new in the business world (not that it makes it right, wrong, acceptable, or unacceptable), but my outrage tends towards more personal rights violations.

The entire "avoiding my fair share of sales tax" thing bugs me, but they're not keeping the money (as if they were avoiding a corporate tax), they're just not making their customers pay it (giving themselves a 5% cost advantage).

We've spoken about the kindle issue before.

But what they're not doing is human rights violations. They're not setting up company towns and forbidding unions; they're not instigating unfair wage and employment practices (ala Walmart, where they stuck people at 39 hours a week to avoid giving benies and systematically treated women as second class employees); they're not even driving mom and pop bookstores out of business (that was Borders).

I agree, they've screwed companies over, probably driven them out of business, and that affects the people that worked there. That's corporate warfare, it's what we do in this country. As the cliche' goes, freedom includes the freedom to fail, we just try to make the playing field as level as possible.

And it's been shown that they _can_ get smacked on the knuckles when they over reach.

Anyway, I don't know where things go from here; it seems that this country has a tendency to grow 900 pound gorillas (see Walmart) that show up, dominate for a number of years, and then fall back into the pack, whether it's due to management not keeping up with the times, people learning from them and using the same tactics against them, or simply assuming that since they're number 1, they'll always be number 1.

Amazon wants to sell books, lots of books, both the physical books and eBooks. It's taught people that eBooks can be just as good as physical book. One of its strengths is that it promotes a huge selection of books, far bigger than any physical location can supply.

So, Amazon is good for the reader, and (apparently) good for the writer. Does this outweigh its business practices? I don't know, I'm just not outraged.

(sorry for the lack of structure and coherence, waiting on the coffee to hit.)
29th-Sep-2011 04:20 pm (UTC)
Not so. Indie bookstores have suffered from Amazon at least as much as Borders; ask any indie bookstore owner. Borders didn't carry a lot of special interest books, but you can get darn near anything on Amazon.
29th-Sep-2011 02:48 pm (UTC)
Definitely an interesting read - thanks for sharing!

I'll agree with other comments and say that I'm not surprised by their business practices. We set up business as a competition, but get outraged when they win? Honestly, I don't know if I'm outraged or not. Yeah, they could have behaved better, but they're playing by the rules of "whatever we can get away with" just like everyone else.

I don't have an e-reader, though I expect one day that will be the only way to get some of the content I'm interested in. I see no compelling reason at this point to leave paper behind.
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