Amazon should run for office. Hell, if corporations are people, why don’t we allow them to run the government directly instead of through behind-the-scenes deals and expensive lobbying? Amazon has the public support to run for election, and its response to the antitrust complaint brought against it by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association shows that it has a knack for the double-speak that allows politicians to assume office. It could even offer a free Prime membership to all of its constituents in exchange for their votes and undying loyalty!
I mean, just look at the way the company handled the GPBA’s allegations that it is delaying shipments on titles from publishers that refuse to renegotiate their deals with the company:
We are aware of the complaint by the Boersenverein that alleges that we are delaying shipments to customers – this allegation is not true. We are currently buying less print inventory than we ordinarily do on some titles from the publisher Bonnier. We are shipping orders immediately if we have inventory on hand. For titles with no stock on hand, customers can still place an order at which time we order the inventory from Bonnier — availability on those titles is dependent on how long it takes Bonnier to fill the orders we place. Once the inventory arrives, we ship it to customers promptly.
Do you see what Amazon did there? It denied anything that might make it look bad (which is Politics 101) while placing the responsibility on its opponent’s shoulders. Never mind the fact that increasing shipping times on a whim and simply deciding to order fewer books from a publisher, which just so happens to increase shipping times, have the same effect. Can’t you see that this is all Bonnier’s fault for not responding to Amazon’s orders fast enough?
Amazon then makes itself out to be the victim in regards to the commission it receives from ebook sales, just to explain why it would be justified in screwing with Bonnier, which it isn’t:
We would like to add some context. It’s widely understood that e-books should cost customers less than the corresponding print edition – in digital there is no printing, freight, warehousing, or returns. We believe this should also be reflected in the terms under which booksellers buy their books from publishers, and this is the case in our terms with most publishers around the world, including in Germany. For the vast majority of the books we sell from Bonnier (a division of the 3 billion Euro international media conglomerate, Bonnier Media Group AB), they are asking us to pay them significantly more when we sell a digital edition than when we sell a print edition of the same title.
That’s a statement Amazon’s customers can get behind. The company’s getting bullied by an “international media conglomerate” that wants Amazon to pay more for digital books than for their physical counterparts? Its commitment to not responding by increasing shipping times or, I don’t know, removing pre-order buttons from Bonnier’s titles makes Amazon look good. This is practically a modern-day version of David vs. Goliath, except David hasn’t even brought his sling because he’s so loath to fling a rock at Goliath’s skull. Amazon’s patience is inspiring.
Let’s just pretend that Amazon isn’t reportedly seeking a larger commission on ebooks than its current 30 percent, and is really just focusing on paying less for digital books than it does for physical books. Try not to think about the absurdity of a store receiving up to 50 percent commission on a good that it had no hand in producing — Amazon is just trying to make a living by receiving a fair portion of the sales its customers generate.
So long as we’re ignoring Amazon’s antics, let’s also pretend that the company’s isn’t holding Hachette’s books hostage with similar (and more drastic) tactics that turn its customers into a weapon to force publishers to do whatever it wants. Or that Warner Bros. hasn’t capitulated to the company to sell a few more DVDs, thus proving that its tactics can work. Let’s just try to remember that Amazon is committed first and foremost to making its customers happy by offering low prices and selling more items than any other marketplace. Right?
If Amazon can continue to use non-denials and double-speak to deflect questions about its business practices it could certainly use them to get elected to some government position. It might even be able to make the “it depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is,’ is” argument seem rational if it keeps this up. You can practically see all the campaign advertisements now.
[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]