Thursday, December 8, 2011

Amazon's Offense

All week I’ve been fuming. Nothing gets my goat like Amazon, and they’re at it with disgusting abandon. On Saturday, December 10, their new promotion goes live: price check an item in a retail store with the Amazon app for smart phones, then buy it from Amazon for an additional 5% off, up to $5. The promotion lasts only a day, but still, in the busiest season of the year, in the month on which many retailers rely heavily for future existence, and on what tends to be the biggest shopping day of the week, Amazon encourages consumers to flip the bird to store owners and employees who pay rent and taxes to be considered more than a free showroom, all for a measly five dollars.

Not only has Amazon been aggressively attacking books in short-sighted bursts of lunacy, but many consumers still go along with them. And the new campaign only capitalizes on a practice that already occurs frequently.

Now, maybe I’m getting ahead of my furious self. Dan Mitchell at CNN Money seems to think so, that my outrage is misguided because the Amazon campaign will deal most damage to other giants like Walmart and Barnes & Noble. He goes on to dismiss any concern that local stores will be affected because “those kinds of stores were mostly obliterated years ago” and the “victim is theoretical” in instances of Amazon’s greedy money grabs and sales sniping.

Tell Capitol Hill that Bailey/Coy Books was merely theoretical.

And, for the record, the Elliott Bay Book Company wasn't obliterated; it moved to a new location.

Other arguments pose that Amazon’s new campaign will bring foot traffic into stores. Once there, customer’s are positioned for impulse buys. It’s a funny thing, 5% is. It’s not enough to get people off their couch to try and get a deal. No, it’s a discount designed to entice shoppers who already bothered to leave the house. Then, in the store, that added discount (up to five measly bucks) is designed to tip a customer on the fence toward buying from Amazon, where prices are already gouged deeply, and shipping costs are nil. Impulse buys are never Nathan Myhrvold’s elaborate cookbook and food-porn masterpiece, Modernist Cuisine ($625, available at Elliott Bay Book Co.); they’re more likely to be chocolate bars, greeting cards, and Bananagrams. But those don't really pay the bills, do they.

It has never been a small irony to me that Amazon chose a Bradburian name like Kindle and Kindle Fire for their e-reader, as they continue to set fire to booksellers, publishers, and writers alike. Why Jeff Bezos and company hate books so much, I’ll never know. But I urge all readers to strike against Amazon and not buy into their underhanded ploys for business. You’re smarter than Amazon. Buying from them is like saying you don’t care what you’re buying, where it comes from, or who it’s for.


Sam Van Eman said...

David, thanks for this. I appreciate the strong message and the way it once again snaps me out of my trance. Pop-culture trails can be so easy to follow and so hard to leave.

I highlighted this conversation starter at today.

Marcus Goodyear said...

And yet I love my Kindle Fire.

I agree that it is going to be a painful time for publishers and writers in some ways.

In other ways, though, Amazon and the digital revolution are connecting writers with readers and cutting out the middle man.

So long as book stores continue to offer real community and relationships to their customers, I think they are okay. Bookstores are an experience. Amazon allows a transactional exchange.

Sam Van Eman said...

"Bookstores are an experience. Amazon allows a transactional exchange."

I suppose one of the challenges will be to help the average consumer recognize the value of the experience over and above the transactional exchange. I'm not saying I want to find ways for Target to woo customers and make more money, but if they have something genuinely worth having (in terms of experience), then employees need to offer it.

The local shops will need to go even a step further. We certainly don't want to go the way of the feed lot when it comes to shopping (Completely, I mean. We're partially there already). We need Elliott Bay Book Company and Hearts & Minds Books but in the face of so much ease and apparent savings, it's hard to make the right choice.

David K Wheeler said...

I'm wary of a business that wants to be your only friend. It wants to have everything so you don't have to bother with anyone else. Just it. Doesn't that seem like Amazon has stepped out of every dystopian novel ever written? Big Brother much? And if I'm out of line here, so be it; I'd rather not be on queue for the slaughtering floor.

Sheila said...

Circumstance draw me to shop online: I have a full-time job and health considerations that make brick-and-mortar shopping challenging.

I'm drawn to etsy and madebysurvivors more, and Amazon less, these days.

Though I will confess that my Kindle has revived my reading life.

Ann Kroeker said...

My kids and I were chatting about eReaders, and my 10yo son, a fan of bound books, said, "Well, at least LIBRARIES have REAL books instead of just Ebooks."

"Well, um, I hate to tell you, but libraries have eBooks, too."


"Yes, they let you 'borrow' them and then expect you to delete them when you're done."


"I know. It's hard to believe, but one day libraries, too, may have to figure out how to best serve people, because I still want access to their books. I can't afford to buy even all digital books."

"I can't believe it," he said, slamming his head into his hands, despondent. Then he looked up. "Everyone outsmarts me. I thought libraries would still have books. I, for one, want to read REAL books."

"They'll still have them, I think. For a while, maybe they will."

I think publishing and reading is changing faster and more far-reaching than expected. Used to be, when I spoke someplace, I'd take my printed, bound books along and sell quite a few. Now, most times, people come up to me and ask, "Is this available on Kindle?" (or Nook or whatever).

When I assure them of that, they turn around and leave. No more do people want a signed hard copy of a nonfiction Christian book. They just want the information inside on their e-reader. It's practical to read that way, I guess, and convenient to purchase via download. Easy to store, too...fewer bookshelves.

(for the record: I don't have an e-Reader myself...I'm just sharing observations and interactions)

Megan Willome said...

I live in a small town that stinks if I want a new book. But if I want an old book or a first edition or a rare book, then it's just the place.

David K Wheeler said...

If you're already online, there's no reason to lose all creative ingenuity and give into Amazon's predatory pricing. Lots of independent retailers have online ways to buy from them. All it takes is the extra minute to find items at a store with integrity; it's a mental habit to get in, like eating properly or recycling--simple ways to make the world better for all of us.

amy said...

give me a real book any day. i have just stepped up my book buying to ensure having real books in case the day comes when, God forbid, i can find none.

Monica Sharman said...

Thanks so much. You point out much here that I wasn't aware of before.

Sam Van Eman said...

More for the discussion, Dave:

Fat Doctor said...

There is some irony in a rant against Amazon and then using Google to host a blog. Big and Orwellian is big an Orwellian if selling books or self.
I am a printer, so you might imagine what the ability to publish via blog has done to my business--but you would likely imagine something other than the reality. I print (by hand) my zines, poetry and comics than ever! I suspect that when the priestly mumbo jumbo of publishing was laid bare, it gave others the courage to make themselves heard via print. said...

I love my cousin's post on "Kindling" from a while back. Like some of the others commenting here, we are starting to hoard books, real books. :)