The Passive Voice linked the other day to yet another Amazon-punisher: Jack Shafer, posting at Reuters, writes about the many ways Amazon has enmeshed their hooks into his life—Prime membership, Kindle ownership, magazine subscriptions and so on, all of which he used and enjoyed quite happily. And then! Amazon is Evil Overlording Hachette! You can’t get Malcolm Gladwell anymore! He’s quitting Amazon forever!
There is no emoticon big enough to properly convey my eye roll here. I have read dozens of articles on this Hachette and Amazon feud, including several by my fellow Teleread contributors. And I don’t get it. Articles like Shafer’s rant are presupposing a lot of things which I don’t feel we can accept as given and true:
– That Amazon is inherently doing something wrong by choosing to carry or not to carry any given product
– That Hachette is the good guy and not just as self-interested and fighting for the bottom line as Amazon is
– That Amazon’s other benefits to authors and readers, such as the detail that they pay many authors a higher royalty rate than Hachette does, are somehow cancelled out by this one thing
– And most importantly for me, the idea that Hachette’s content is so damn valuable that we must forgo all other content we might purchase from Amazon for the sake of defending it
If Jack Shafer wants Malcolm Gladwell so badly, there ARE other places to buy his stuff. Indeed, Amazon themselves continues to allow second-hand copies of Hachette authors on their marketplace if he’s so bent on keeping all his shopping to one store.
And speaking of that, why IS he so bent on doing that? He’s complaining that Amazon has a ‘monopoly’ and then all but handing it to them by admitting that, until this Hachette issue opened up his eyes to how ‘bad’ Amazon is, he bought Everything from them. Do you behave that way with any other product category in your life?
Let me give you an example. I live in a country which regulates alcohol sales. You can only by it at the state-run stores. So, am I going to stop shopping at the grocery store to punish them for not stocking wine? no. I buy alcohol, if I am so inclined, from a store that sells it, and I buy other things from other stores. Don’t you?
I think the problem is that people seem to be expecting Amazon to carry every product in the world, just because they are an online business. And they are forgetting that in the non-online world, what Amazon is being vilified for is in fact quite common. I do most of my grocery shopping at the chain store because they have the widest selection. But they have specialty products they do not stock, which I buy elsewhere. The Beloved and I patronize the local drugstore, but he also shops at an online site for certain specialty items. I buy most of my clothes from a chain store who caters to my tastes, but I am not opposed to buying clothing elsewhere too. That is retail. Thousands of stores make decisions every day to stock this product or that one, for any number of reasons. There is nothing moral or amoral about it.
So buy the Gladwell elsewhere if it’s so darned important to you, the same way you might go to a gourmet shop instead of a grocery store for that one special brand of cheese, or a shoe store instead of a department store for that special athletic shoe. But don’t be hypocrite and blame Amazon, then eat your special cheese and feel virtuous.