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August 07, 2014

Two on Amazon

"A Rare Peek Inside Amazon’s Massive Wish-Fulfilling Machine".

Unlike past advances in retail gratification–the emergence of the supermarket in the mid-20th century, say, or the more recent rise to dominance of Walmart superstores–the workings of Amazon are almost entirely hidden from view. Amazon doesn’t want customers focused on the mechanics of its seemingly magical powers. But last month, the company gave WIRED a rare glimpse into one of the more than 90 warehouses it operates across the globe, looking to show that its fulfillment machine is finely tuned not just to serve Amazon itself but anyone else who wants to sell stuff on its site.

"Amazon, a Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed".

All of this angst and arguing is pushing forward a question: Is the resistance to Amazon a last-ditch bid to keep the future of American literary culture out of the hands of a rapacious corporation that calls books “demand-weighted units,” or an effort by a bunch of dead-enders and snobs to forestall a future that will be much better for most readers and writers?

Mr. Zandri, who 15 years ago had a $235,000 contract with a big New York house that went sour, has an answer.

“Everything Amazon has promised me, it has fulfilled — and more,” he said. “They ask: ‘Are you happy, Vince? We just want to see you writing books.’ That’s the major difference between corporate-driven Big Five publishers, where the writer is not the most important ingredient in the soup, and Amazon Publishing, which places its writers on a pedestal.”


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It's hard to follow the Amazon v Hachette argument, since there is missing data. But I'm pretty darned sure there is no law in the US that says a retailer must sell your book, or must make it convenient to buy, or must add value in any way. Hachette is always free to start its own retailing establishment. [And the NYT is not quite as biased in this as I expected. Faint praise, I know.]

I do find it funny that the argument against Amazon is that it is seeking to make a profit, since people are usually unhappy that it isn't/doesn't. And what is Hachette in business for, and why did it buy up competitors? Of course, what really appears to be driving Hachette is power and control, along with profit.

And while best-selling authors may like Hachette, mid-listers have been getting screwed by publishers for decades. Slow payment, weird accounting 'rules', crappy "take it or leave it" contracts -- not as bad as music companies but bad enough. Read Sarah Hoyt's blog for details. This would appear to be serious case of Pot/Kettle Syndrome for Hachette.

And shouldn't Lefties be overjoyed with Amazon? It's showing how a giant corporation can deliver what consumers want at a great without making any of that nasty old profit at all.

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