Perhaps you’ve been following the Hachette Publishers vs. Amazon.com kerfuffle? Everyone from indie Brooklyn publishing houses to the Editorial Page of the New York Times has gone on record deploring the online behemoth’s slash-and-burn tactics. TL;DR: Amazon, which already controls about 50% of US book sales, wants even better terms from publishing houses, and is not above twisting arms to get its way. One guy who doesn’t like having his arm twisted? Hachette author Stephen Colbert. Who is, coincidentally, one comedian you don’t want to piss off.
Like John Oliver, Stephen Colbert took matters into his own hands, giving Amazon the finger (twice) on national TV last night, and then inviting on another Hachette author, the terrific Sherman Alexie, to commiserate. Together they promoted debut novelist Edan Lepucki’s California, because Hachette’s less-established writers are the real victims of this fight, telling audiences to show Amazon up by buying the book via Colbert Nation. Full clips below.
It was bound to happen. After years of concern about how our brains would change when we could look up any information we wanted in seconds, spearheaded by the Society of Adults Who Told You There Wouldn’t Always Be A Calculator In Your Pocket, now we’re getting some concern that our brains will be further altered by the ability to buy anything we want with a single click, or—in the case of Amazon’s Fire Phone and Firefly technology, by simply waving our phones over stuff and then buying the stuff with a single click.
To quote Slate’s Future Tense:
When your phone encourages you to make up shopping lists of items you encounter daily, it may be difficult not to begin to see the world as made of readily consumable items.
Maybe my brain has already started to change, but I’m not quite sure how that’s different from what we have now. The world is made up of readily consumable items, and the friction doesn’t come from the time it takes to type “Amazon.com Crocs Malindi black” and then click “add to cart,” it comes from our own budgets and our own spending capacities.
Attention, nerds! HBO and Amazon Prime have announced a power-sharing agreement that is much more exciting than the one happening halfway around the world, so pay no attention to Fatah and Hamas. If you have a subscription to Amazon’s extra-special-bonus soon-to-be-$99-a-year service Prime, starting May 21, you will be able to stream episodes of the shows that put the Premium in premium cable:
It means access to HBO will no longer be limited to cable or satellite provider packages, opening the door wide for the first time to cord-cutters who’ve doubtless been waiting for a deal like this to go down. It means you’ll be able to tap HBO with anything that currently supports Amazon’s Prime channel — set-tops, tablets, phones, game consoles, etc. — and gain access to whole swathes of HBO content (as well as free two-day shipping and Kindle library lending) for Amazon’s standard $99-per-year fee.
Bear in mind, if you’re not a member, that Prime content is free to Prime members; this isn’t HBO signing up to let Amazon charge you to watch these shows. Amazon says Prime members will have “unlimited streaming access.”
Perhaps Amazon acceded in order to make its rate hike more palatable to its consumers. Perhaps HBO did because it wanted to give younger people, who are increasingly likely to eschew cable altogether, an option beyond stealing their parents’ HBO Go passwords. Who cares! More Sopranos and The Wire and yes even Sex and the City, without which I would have nothing to discuss with other straight women. Your move, Showtime.
If corporations are people—and, as we all know, they legally are—then Amazon is a person just like you and me.
That is to say: Amazon is spending more than it earns.
And, just like you and me, Amazon has plenty of reasons why it’s overspending. To quote Mashable: “Amazon is spending an incredible amount of money on a variety of investments that are not turning a profit. Well, not yet.”
Yes, the Amazon quarterly numbers are out, and although—as Geekwire notes—its net sales increased 23% to $19.34 billion for Q2 2014, the company also reported a quarterly loss of $126 million dollars.
I am having flashbacks to my own failed business and the cycle of thought in which I convinced myself first that I was “spending money to make money!” and second that as soon as I had one good month, I could start to pay back what I’d lost.
It’s amusing to learn that Amazon, just like you and me, is spending money to make money. (As a corporation wearing a people suit, it truly has picked up the local mannerisms and cognitive dissonances.)
Also, I suspect that despite this quarterly loss, Amazon is going to do just fine.
Photo: Stephen Woods