The Best Case Against Amazon You'll Ever Read
Matthew Boudway January 24, 2012 - 3:36pm
No surprise, it's by Leon Wieseltier of the New Republic:
Last week a record store in Dupont Circle announced that it was closing. The immediate cause of its demiseit had outlasted national and regional chainswas Price Check, Amazons new idea for exterminating competition. It is an app that allows shoppers to scan the bar code on any item in any store and transmit it to Amazon for purposes of comparison, and if it compares favorably to Amazons price, Amazons special promotion promises a discount on the same item. In this way shoppers become spies, and stores, merely by letting customers through their doors, become complicit in their own undoing. It will not do to shrug that this is capitalism, because it is a particular kind of capitalism: the kind that entertains fantasies of monopoly. For all its technological newness, Amazons vision is disgustingly familiar. (Amazon is coming to eat me, a small publisher of fine religious books stoically told me a few weeks ago.) Nor will it do to explain that Amazons app is convenient, unless one is prepared to acquiesce in a view of American existence according to which its supreme consideration must be convenience. How easy must every little thing be? A record store in your neighborhood is also convenient, and so is a bookstore. There is also a sinister side to the convenience of online shopping: hours once spent in the sensory world, in the diversified satisfaction of material needs and desires, can now be surrendered to work. It appears to be a law of American life that there shall be no respite from screens. And so Amazons practices raise the old question of the cultural consequences of market piggishness. For there are businesses that are not only businesses, that also have non-monetary reasons for being, that are public goods. Their devastation in the name of profit may be economically legitimate, but it is culturally calamitous. In a word, wrong.
Read the whole thing here.
About the Author
Matthew Boudway is an associate editor of Commonweal.