2014/01/03/How I learned to stop worrying and love Amazon
- when: 2014/01/03
- author: Nicholas Clee
- source: New Statesman
- topics: Amazon.com bookselling digital publishing anti-competition
- link: http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2013/12/how-i-learned-stop-worrying-and-love-amazon
- title: How I learned to stop worrying and love Amazon
- summary: The online retailer has reshaped bookselling since it entered the trade in 1995. But Amazon's aggressive and "anti-competitive" tactics, especially for selling ebooks, are raising hackles in an industry under stress.
Amazon's cool image lasted only until the first of his company executives took the floor at an industry conference and spouted what was to become a familiar litany of unilluminating corporate jargon. Amazon, we realised, was remote and secretive. In a friendly industry, it had no interest in being collegiate. It played hardball. Fail to grant it the discounts it wanted, and it launched a battery of unpleasant correctives, chillingly outlined in Brad Stone's recent book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Bantam Press). And, as we also learned, it was a tax avoider. (Amazon.co.uk accounts for its sales in Luxembourg.)
Worse, it appears to have ravaged the industry's ecosystem. Because Bezos has so successfully trained investors to wait for returns, he has been able to offer loss-leading discounts beyond the scope of companies with the conventional imperatives of making profits. When Amazon arrived in the UK in October 1998, the leading specialist booksellers included the newly merged Waterstone's (as it was then known) and Dillons (with 500 branches), Borders and Books Etc, Hammicks, James Thin and Ottakar's. Now the only one left is Waterstones, with fewer than 300 branches – and recently it laid off 200 of its managers. There were 1,535 independent bookshops in the UK in 2008 and now there are 1,028. The rate of attrition in the United States has been similar.
The digital reading revolution, which Amazon kick-started by introducing the Kindle, has accelerated this process.