Can anything stop the Amazon juggernaut? On Re/Code, Jason Del Rey looks at five things that could potentially slow Amazon down. The article offers some interesting possibilities, but perhaps the most interesting thing is what those possibilities say about Amazon, rather than what they say might happen to Amazon.

The possibilities are a slowdown in Prime membership growth, failure in India, increased competition for Amazon Web Services, the ‘voice search’ wars, and the brutal workplace stigma. The noteworthy thing these possibilities say about Amazon is that, by and large, the only major problems it could run into effectively amount to bad luck.

Even in those possibilities that include Amazon running afoul of competition, the possibilities are remarkably nonspecific. Who, exactly, is going to clobber Amazon Web Services? Who’s going to topple Alexa from voice search? The only possibilities Del Rey lists are big companies like Microsoft and Google, and the only thing he really says about them is that they’re also big. There are no actual reasons to believe these are serious possibilities.

It’s also worth considering what isn’t mentioned at all: e-books. They simply don’t come up, in any way, shape, or form. (Though I suppose you might consider that they’re implied in the India question, given how much trouble e-book vendors have been having in that market.) Nor does he bring up Amazon’s mobile devices, including its blockbuster Fire tablet sales, beyond touching obliquely on them in the entry on voice search. Why? Is it that they’re just not important enough to Amazon to matter? Or is it it that Amazon has such a lock on them that Del Rey can’t foresee anyone being able to challenge Amazon’s leadership in those markets?

When you get right down to it, Amazon is a really impressive piece of work—a sturdy structure built on a solid foundation year over year. It might have started out like a neighborhood business run out of someone’s garage, but by now it’s a huge fortress with gun turrets overlooking every harbor. It’s a testament to Jeff Bezos’s leadership and planning abilities that effectively the only ways Amazon could fail now effectively amount to a run of bad luck.

And none of the listed possibilities seems likely to inconvenience Amazon very much or for very long—you can’t prevent bad luck, but you can minimize the amount of harm it will do through the same sort of careful planning that’s made Amazon able to grow so big in the first place. Even the idea of making a profit at all is relatively new to Amazon, given that it spent most of its first twenty years spending money on growth and expansion as quickly as it took it in. It would get by if profits dipped for a bit.

In the end, the column reads like a whole lot of not-terribly-specific wishful thinking on the part of the various entities who Amazon is outcompeting or otherwise inconveniencing. Any company can have reversals of fortune, but the sort of reversal required to stymie Amazon is not the sort of thing someone can predict—because if it could be predicted, Amazon would have predicted it and taken precautions. What Amazon really has to worry about is the sort of thing that comes completely out of left field, and there’s no way to predict when or if something like that will ever happen.


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail