Amazon, Destroyer of Worlds

A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 5 2012 9:24 AM

Amazon, Destroyer of Worlds

David Streitfeld has a piece about the enormous backlash against Timothy Ferriss for signing with Amazon to do an Amazon-published book. Barnes and Nobel and a growing roster of independent bookstores say they won't sell the paper copies of a book published by an imprint owned by a company they perceive as aiming to destroy them.

Charlie Stross offers a longer take on this theme, focusing on what he sees as Amazon's evil plan to dominate the book industry and use a combination of monopoly and monopsony power to destroy everything.

Advertisement

And maybe so. But as I've said before, this isn't even really what's so terrifying about Amazon. It's like that scene near the end of Apocalypse Now where Kurtz says the higher-ups said his methods were unsound and Willard responds "I don't see any method at all, sir." If Amazon does have an evil Part B to its plan where it uses its monopoly status to jack up profit margins, that at least gives competitors a fighting chance. The real risk is that "sell the devices at cost and make it up on e-books, but wait, we don't make profits on those either" is all there is to the plan, and Amazon's investors have just unleashed a storm of locusts on the world that will ruin everyone else's profits.

But for consumers, it's great. An Amazon Prime membership is the most outrageously good deal in commerce today. But competitors should be afraid. It's an amazing deal and you can't beat it precisely because Amazon can't make it work, either!

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Sports Nut

Grandmaster Clash

One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

Uh-Oh. The World’s Oceans Have Broken Their All-Time Heat Record.

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

Future Tense

Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company

Food

How to Order Chinese Food

First, stop thinking of it as “Chinese food.”

The NFL Should Lose Its Tax-Exempt Status, Which It Never Should Have Had Anyway

The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant

The XX Factor
Sept. 18 2014 11:40 AM The Country Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Work Once They’re 36 Weeks’ Pregnant
Moneybox
Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
Outward
Sept. 18 2014 4:15 PM Reactions to a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Reveal Transmisogyny
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.