Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Bezos’


Thomas Frank

“I don’t like Amazon, and I don’t like Donald Trump either. I would approve enthusiastically if a president started enforcing antitrust laws, but that’s not what Trump is proposing to do. What we are being offered instead is a choice between the worst president of our lifetimes and one of the most rapacious corporate enterprises in the country. And, eagerly, we are lining up with one or the other.

“This in turn seems to me an almost perfect representation of the wretched choices available to Americans these days, as well as the megadoses of self-deception we are swallowing in order to make them. It is everything that is wrong with our politics, and it extends from the most sweeping matters of state right down to the individual reader.

“. . . [T]his [is] where we are now in the world’s greatest democracy. We have the billionaire Republicans, with their bigotry and their war on all things public, and the billionaire Democrats, with their oblivious ideology of globe and technology. To the common people, assembled in all our majesty, the momentous question is posed: who do you hate more?”

Thomas Frank, in his wonderful piece in The Guardian,Trump’s enemy is not your friend

(U.S. readers might not be aware of this, but The Guardian [formerly  The Manchester Guardian] is the single best news source on the Internet, including sources hidden behind a paywall [e.g., New York Times or Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post]; The Guardian is the best source, period. I like them enough that I occasionally contribute money to them. The only other news outlet that I would unreservedly recommend is The Intercept, which due to lesser financial resources posts fewer stories than The Guardian, but whose journalism is arguably of even higher quality. For opinion mixed with news, you won’t do better than Truthdig.)


As anyone in his or her right mind would agree, you can’t trust the New York Times — not after their role in selling G.W. Bush’s Iraq invasion — nor the even further-right Washington Post, especially after Satan’s little brother (Amazon’s Jeff Bezos) took it over recently. So, what’s left?

A lot. I typically look at a good half-dozen news and/or compilation sites every day or two:

  • The Guardian (the single best paper on the ‘net)
  • El Pais (Spanish-language, the major Madrid daily)
  • CNN (international, i.e., the “adult,” edition — not the U.S. “kiddie” edition)
  • Al Jazeera (the best Middle East news site, and after The Guardian, probably the second best international news site; soft on Islam, but otherwise great)
  • The Intercept — by far the best behind-the-scenes whistle-blower and analysis site
  • Le Monde (French-language, the Parisian paper of record — my French is lousy, so I normally check this only when I want their take on particular stories or events)
  • Truthdig — Chris Hedges’ and Robert Scheer’s essential hold-their-feet-to-the-fire whistle-blower and analysis site
  • Truthout another good leftist compilation/analysis site
  • The Cult News Network Run by a conservative Republican (!), this is by far the best site on the ‘net for news about religious cults
  • The Underground Bunker — getting toward even more specialized news, this is the best source of info about one of the most two American bizarro, destructive cults (Scientology — the other is Mormonism)
  • Fark — The best weird news site, and one which will lead you down all sorts of rabbit holes, sometimes toward real understanding — but more often not.

Please pass along any feedback about these sites, or any others you’d recommend, in the comments section.

 

 


If you ever buy books or anything else from amazon.com, you’ll probably find the following of interest. This article, “Addressing the Elephant in the Room,” by Alex Mutter, appeared in today’s Shelf Awareness (publishing industry blog).
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On the second day of Digital Book World 2014, many of the morning’s keynote speakers focused on one subject: Amazon.com. Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, led off by highlighting instances from his book that he believed would help “illuminate the way Amazon operates” and help publishers predict how Amazon may operate in the future.

The launch of the original Kindle e-reader, Stone said, was the company’s defining moment, and Bezos has been “running the same playbook” ever since. It took three years to develop the first Kindle, and the company’s senior vice-presidents argued against the project. The Kindle’s runaway success has emboldened Amazon, Stone asserted, and the company has tried to replicate that success in each new market that it’s entered. He speculated that right now, “Amazon has offices working on hardware: set-top boxes, mobile phones and who knows what else.”

Stone also touched on the infamous “Cheetah and Gazelle” episode, in which Bezos told his staff to pursue re-negotiations with the smallest book publishers like “a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.” As part of that, Amazon employees pulled small publishers’ books from Amazon if they did not agree to new terms. Amazon also encouraged authors, especially those focused on their Amazon sales rank, to put pressure on their publishers. “It showed that Amazon really has no balance,” said Stone. “Customers come first, and customers are entirely synonymous with its own self interest. [emphasis added]

“There might be an inclination in the industry or at Digital Book World to take comfort or glee in the declining pace of change in the book business,” Stone cautioned, referring to the leveling-off of e-book sales and the mixed results of Amazon’s publishing efforts. “I can assure you that Bezos and his colleagues do not believe that the pace of change in any business is stagnating,” he continued. “The one constant is that [Amazon] does not give up. It’s fairly ruthless and self-absorbed in how it tries to disrupt existing order.”

Joseph Esposito, publishing consultant and president at Processed Media, discussed Amazon’s growing, often-overlooked share of the institutional book market and the difficulty of gaining insight into Amazon’s business. Not only is Amazon “notoriously secretive,” said Esposito, but much of the information that it releases is also intentionally misleading. When Amazon announced that e-books were outselling print books, Esposito added, the company neglected to mention that it was referring only to its own sales. Subsequent, uncritical reports from the general media also contributed to the misconceptions.

“It would lead you to believe that print books have disappeared,” he said.

To find information about Amazon, Esposito polled university presses and libraries. He found that university presses had declining sales to traditional wholesalers such as Baker & Taylor and Ingram and increasing sales to Amazon, while librarians, especially those with severe budget restrictions, are turning to Amazon in greater numbers. Given that Amazon is also a customer of Baker & Taylor, the situation can be bizarre: Esposito brought up the case of a librarian who, needing a book on short notice, went to Amazon rather than Baker & Taylor, saying that B&T orders would take two weeks while Amazon orders would take two days. The rush Amazon orders, however, were drop-shipped by B&T. The implication here is that wholesalers provide higher levels of service to Amazon than to their direct customers.

In a subsequent panel on the future of Amazon and the publishing business, Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch encouraged members of the book business to stop thinking about “being under siege,” and instead think about ways to innovate. The resurgence of local, independent bookstores, Cader said, offered a “glimmer of hope” to those wanting to take some of the business back from Amazon. Cader, along with Esposito and Stone, suggested that publishers and booksellers can also take advantage of Amazon having to fight hard battles on so many fronts–in essentially every market that it’s entered since it established itself in the book industry.

“We ought to think about where can people who know the book business well adopt the ‘Amazonian’ attitude,” Cader suggested. “If you put a bicycle in every independent bookstore, that could defeat octocopters.”

During the same panel, Esposito advised publishers not to look to the Department of Justice or any other government agency for help against Amazon.

“My observation is that everything to do with antitrust issues seems to come down to what does it cost the customer,” he reflected. “Where consumer prices are kept low, things seems to pass muster with the DoJ. I don’t see any reason to see regulatory support going ahead. It seems to me that publishers can do more in this situation by being more innovative than appealing to regulatory forces.”

Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC’s “Mad Money” and author of Get Rich Carefully, also briefly reflected on Amazon during his talk on investment prospects in the publishing business.

“If Amazon would report earnings, I believe their stock would go down,” said Cramer. “They’ve never been constrained by the need to make money.”

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And rest assured, Amazon did go after small publishers like “a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.” For several months last year, our distributor, Independent Publishers Group, which represents several hundred small book publishers, refused to supply our e-books (and those of the other IPG publishers) to Amazon because of Amazon’s demand for preferential discounts.

It’s entirely up to you whether you continue to buy from Amazon.

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