Monday, December 2, 2013

Is Amazon Evil?

U B the Judge:

Amazon is busy, but secretive, at Kendall Square offices
The Amazon name has allure; the Seattle e-commerce giant hired at least 80 people for its Cambridge research-and-development office in 2012, according to several employees who have since moved on. But how’s this for secretive? Current and former employees are forbidden from talking about what happens at the Cambridge office, and the company won’t even tell prospective employees what they’d be working on, if hired.

Sounds nefarious.

So what are they up to?   Preparing a drone attack against Wal-Mart, in revenge for dropping the Kindle?   Developing a Stuxnet variant that will selectively infect the Nook?  If you agree that, given the facts on the ground, this can only point to a massive cover-up, with probable North Korean involvement, then you are ready to embark upon the thriller experience of your life:

Set aside a week of your life, to thread through this.

There is only one man -- well okay, actually two men, but they're brothers -- who could possibly unravel this intricate structure of plots within plots: and that man (men) is (are) Murphy (Murphy and his brother Joey, I mean).  You can read about his (their) adventure(s) here:

(Note:  Admission to that exclusive site is normally by invitation only, and involves a fee of five hundred euros;  however, for today only, and for you personally only, it's free.)

Note:  As a self-sacrificing service to our devoted readers,  we maintain the following, in the face of evil Amazon Kindle monopolism:'

[2 Dec 2013]  Flash update!  Amazon acquiring a fleet of drones.

Note:  Since the Washington Post was recently bought by Amazon kingpin Jeff Bezos, it does not dare criticize the move, but rather glamorizes it.   Omitting such details as the use of depleted uranium in the nosecones, and eventually undepleted uranium in the payloads.

Today:  Amazon UAVs.
Tomorrow:   World domination.

[Update 1 April 2014]  Just finished reading Jonathan Franzen's The Kraus Project, towards the end of which he vents:

"In my own little corner of the world, which is to say American fiction, Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the Antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the Four Horsemen. Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion."

[Update 15 April 2014]  Google punches back with its own drone army:

[Update 17 May 2014]

On Thursday, the new bestseller list arrived at the offices of Hachette Book Group with good news: One of the publisher’s books, T.D. Jakes’s “Instinct,” had vaulted to the No. 1 spot.
But the bad news was that anyone trying to order the book on on Friday got a message saying that it “usually ships within 3 to 5 weeks,” far slower than the fast delivery on which Amazon prides itself.

Hachette, which owns Little, Brown; Hyperion; and Grand Central, says that Amazon is deliberately slowing sales of Hachette’s books in an effort to pressure the French publisher into agreeing to new contract terms on book pricing. Hachette says there is no shortage of the books.
“We are satisfying all Amazon’s orders promptly,” Hachette said in a statement last week. “Amazon is holding minimal stock and restocking some of HBG’s books slowly, causing ‘available 2-4 weeks’ messages, for reasons of their own.”

Amazon, whose chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post, would not comment for this article.

[Update 23 May 2014]

[Update 30 May 2014]

[Update 31 May 2014]

How did Amazon attain such monopsony power? By providing valuable services? Perhaps, to some extent. But consider that from the moment it introduced its Kindle product, Amazon sold e-books at prices far below what it was buying them for. If Amazon bought an e-book from Hachette for $13, it resold it to a consumer for $9.99, losing $3.01 per e-book. It should come as no surprise that under these circumstances, e-book buyers flocked to Amazon.
But there was a problem. When a company has dominant market power and sells goods for below marginal cost, it is engaging in predatory pricing, a violation of federal antitrust laws.
What was to be done? Fortunately, in early 2010, a natural market solution presented itself: the introduction of the iPad and Apple’s entry into the e-book market. At Apple’s suggestion, the major book publishers were persuaded to change their e-book business model to reflect how Apple had been selling its popular apps for the iPhone. Under the app model, the publisher sets the price, not Apple or Amazon — with the e-retailer keeping a 30 percent commission. Here, price competition does not go away; it just moves from the e-retailer to the app developers, book publishers and authors.
As a result, Amazon found itself no longer selling e-books at below cost, and its rivals began competing on service, spurring new entrants to the market and the release of innovative e-book devices.

All was well until the Justice Department, supported by a white paper supplied to it by Amazon, filed an ill-advised lawsuit against Apple and five of the major book publishers for antitrust violations. The publishers were charged with “price fixing” — but not for fixing prices: Not a single e-book price was fixed by the conspiracy contrived by the government.

 [Update 9 Aug 2014]  A superb blogpost on the epic Amazon-versus-the-publishers battle  here:

Dispute Between Amazon and Hachette Takes an Orwellian Turn
[Update a6 Aug 2015] As a place to work, apparently Amazon has elements of a cult:

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