As anyone who has been paying attention to the economic news and bookselling news over the last few years knows, it has been tough for small independents for some time now. While it is easy to blame it on one thing or another, the fact is that not enough people are buying books from us to afford to stay in this larger space. We’ve been warning of changes coming in how we do things. This is one of those.
We’ve been shrinking our stock for the last few months. We’ve been suggesting that you let us know what books you want and that we’ll order them for you. That will have to continue and expand. We’re happy to get you want you want – mystery or not – but it is inevitable that you may often not find what you want in stock when you walk through the door. It simply isn’t possible to order books in the variety and quantity of “the good old days”.
We’ll move over Labor Day weekend (kind of symmetrical, isn’t it, as we moved down here over Memorial Day ‘05). We’ll be closed Friday Aug 29th – Monday, Sept 1st. We’ll be looking for volunteers who’d like to schlep boxes and for those who can lend us library carts. We’ll provide pizzas and pop.
Once we’re back in the original space, we’ll try to keep the shop set up as it always has been – a large section of PNW authors and books, a table for new paperback releases, a table for signings, the new hardcovers, and some special sections. We won’t know how exactly it will all work until we begin putting in shelves. We imagine it’ll still feel familiar and you won’t feel too lost or puzzled. And it’ll be carpeted!
We really have no option but to move if we want to continue. Current sales make the rent on this space prohibitive. Rent in our old space will be a third of what is now. That means we should be able to make it to the end of our current lease. Beyond that?
Well now, that’ll depend a lot on you. For years now we’ve been saying that if you like what any small business does you must support them with sales. The time for warnings is past. With your help, we’ll do our best to make it through to next June and, maybe, to our 25th birthday… and then maybe our 30th!
If you want the Seattle Mystery Bookshop to continue – the quarterly newsletter, the weekly newzines, the signings and signed books, the selection of used books, as well as our charming company - buy from us. If you don’t, all of this will go away. Simple as that.
~ the Crew
[The posters will be updated...]
PS - and Update:
Since we announed the move what has been made obvious to us is that a lot of people don't know where our original space was.
Thirty yards directly to the East. Same building, same level, same street, just the other end of the front walkway. You'll still come through the gate, hop down two steps but then you'll turn left and walk 30 yards to our old/new front door.
Our apologies for any confusion!
Address, phone, e-mail, and website - all of it stays the same.
On The Slog, (6/9) The Stranger's Paul Constant reported yesterday that due to contentious negotiations with another supplier, Ama - er, um SPECTRE has suspended the pre-ordering fuction for Warner Brothers/Paramount movie releases.
He quotes from Bill Hunt on The Digital Bits: "Not done yet... some of you have been asking why your Amazon.com pre-orders for select Warner Bros, Paramount catalog, Viz Media (and other Warner-distributed) titles have been suspended. We’ve learned through industry sources that Warner Home Video and Amazon.com are in the middle of negotiations on a new contract, so pre-orders on Warner titles have been suspended until a deal is reached. Hopefully, the situation will be resolved soon."
Sounds like SPECTRE is spreading it's 'negotiating tactic' beyond just Hachette. Keep an eye on this to see if they up the ante.
Jeremy Greenfield, writing in The Atlantic on May 28th, notes: "Hachette is the first among the world's five largest publishers (Penguin merged with Random House last year)to sign another contract with Amazon since its court-mandated contract in 2012—and likely the most important. In the coming two years, Amazon and its competitors will renegotiate contracts with all of the world's largest publishers and in 2015 they will be again allowed by law to negotiate contracts where they determine the prices of e-books. Amazon likely doesn't want this and, by the looks of it, is even willing to inconvenience its own customers in the short term to ensure this long-term outcome."
One can infer that if the scorched earth practices used against Hachette continue and prove beneficial to SPECTRE they will use them against other suppliers - as they currently are against Warner.
SPECTRE has battled the NYC publishers. Are they now going to take on the LA studios?
Maybe the music industry at the same time?
Janet I. Tu, writing in the Seattle Times (6/11, Amazon launches streaming music for Prime subscribers), "Artists from Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and a number of independent labels are included. But artists from Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music label, aren’t." So they'll sell Warner Music but not Warner movies? The issue with Hachette for their books and Warner Brothers for their movies has been discount amounts - that is, how much SPECTRE makes from each sale. Tu notes "Negotiations with the music companies began about six months ago but slowed when those companies considered Amazon’s offers too low, according to a New York Times report."Those who do begin using the system should bear in mind SPECTRE's history of removing e-books from customer's devices. This music system will be cloud-based, which would seem to make it even easier for a supplier to monkey with someone's purchases. And, of course, their customers have to pay to be prime members even before they pay for the music they want. They'll pay twice.
And if all of that isn't enough, SPECTRE "...plans local services marketplace this year". Writing for Reuters (6/11), Deepa Seetharaman reports that it "later this year plans to launch a marketplace for local services, a broad term that encompasses anything from babysitters to handymen to birthday clowns, beginning with a single market, several people familiar with the matter said." What market are they going after now? "The move takes direct aim at consumer review sites Yelp Inc and Angie's List Inc as well as U.S. home improvement chains Home Depot Inc and Lowe's Companies Inc, which have both invested in ways to link customers with local plumbers, painters and other service providers."(thanks to Paul Constant for pointing toward this article.)
Americans usually have a distrust of huge institutions. A huge segment of the population distrusts, and indeed fights, Big Government. At the start of the Great Recession, there was understandable fury at the big banks and the idea of Too Big To Fail. Supposedly, some of the most hated instutions on the planet are the cable companies and the monopolies they have our TV and internet connections.
Then, too, people have been outraged over the intrusiveness of the NSA and them sticking their noses and fingers into the lives of private citizens by hoovering up all sorts of private information. It's Big Goverment, Big Military-Industrial Complex, Conspiracy Theory stuff and all of it feels counter to the Open Range of American Myths.
So why aren't more alarm bells being sounded over SPECTRE's incursions into EVERYTHING? Cloud computing for the CIA and finding you a baby sitter? Your music, your movies and your reading material? When does SPECTRE become 'too big'?
As George Packer wrote in The New Yorker, "Bezos originally thought of calling his company Relentless.com - that URL still takes to to Amazon's site...". Later in the same article, Packer writes "Before Google, and long before Facebook, Bezos had realized that the greatest value of an online company lay in the consumer data it collected."
The relentless acquisition of power, influence, and information.
Author James Patterson announced some time ago that he was going to give away $1million to independent bookshops. It was his intention to help bolster the health of the shops and to ensure they continue to help readers find new authors and to help new readers find books. Mr. Patterson is most concerned about getting children reading and into a life of books, and we applaud him for his efforts and for putting his money where his mouth is.
We applied for one of his grants, and were delighted to be included in his second round of recipients. Stores were invited to submit a proposal of no more than 500 words explaining how a grant would be used. Shop owner JB Dickey sent a plan to use half of whatever money was granted for targeted advertising in social media, and the other half to reward his staff who have voluntarily curtailed their work hours to save the shop payroll expenses.
We’d like to formally thank Mr. Patterson for all that he is doing for independent booksellers across the country and, by extension, for readers. We hope other bestselling authors pay attention and follow his lead.
Endless thanks, too, to all of our loyal fans who wrote to him on our behalf.
Douglas Preston says he feels betrayed: "...after having supported the online retailer even as its growing power raised alarm bells. Some of his books now face shipment delays and higher prices because they are published by Hachette. 'I’ve supported Amazon from the time it was a struggling startup,' Preston said in an interview. 'I feel betrayed personally by this company now that it’s become one of the largest corporations in the world that it would do this to me.'”
Derek Beres wrote from a different perspective: Why the Amazon-Hachette Debate Means Nothing to Writers. Beres dismissed concerns about one company's control of communication and the exchange of ideas: "That’s exactly what you’d expect when people think they’re more important than they are."
We thought it might be instructive to detail some of the authors are affected by this.
Authors published by Hachette (with either new books or backlist titles) - not an exhaustive list of ALL of their writers but authors we have had on our shelves:
Jeff Abbott, Megan Abbott, Kate Atkinson, David Baldacci, Josh Bazell, M.C. Beaton, Lauren Beukes, Mark Billingham, Holly Black, Sara Blaedel, Lawrence Block, Sandra Brown, Stella Cameron, Gail Carriger, Donato, Carrisi, Lincoln Child, Marica Clark, Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver, Ted Dekker, Nelson DeMille, Robert Dugoni, Warren Ellis, Zoe Ferraris, Colleen Gleason, George Dawes Green, Derek Haas, Brian Haig, Carl Hiaasen, Anne Holt, Anthony Horowitz, David Hosp, Elizabeth Singer Hunt, Charlie Huston, Joshilyn Jackson, Hannah Kent, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dorothy Koomson, Michael Koryta, Richard Lange, Joe R. Lansdale, Margaret Maron, Archer Mayor, Brad Meltzer, Deon Meyer, Denise Mina, David Morrell, Walter Mosley, Thomas Mullen, Marcia Muller, James Patterson, George Pelecanos, Benjamin Percy, Elizabeth Peters, Douglas Preston, Ian Rankin, Cornelia Read, Michael Robotham, Karen Rose, David Rosenfelt, Sebastian Rotella, JK Rowling (as Robert Galbraith), Greg Rucka, James Sallis, CJ Sansom, Nick Santora, Maria Semple, Darren Shan, Duane Swiercynski, Alic Sebold, Dan Simmons, Tom Rob Smith, Trenton Lee Stewart, Donna Tartt, Laini Taylor, Jim Thompson, Scot Turrow, Carrie Vaughn, Urban Waite, Joseph Wambaugh, Donald E. Westlake, Kate White, Don Winslow, Tom Wolfe, Daniel Woodrell, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Anne Zouroudi
The SPECTRE/Hachette controversy continues to burble. With the annual national book trade show last weekend in NYC, it's stayed a raging conversation. Here's more:
May 28 - David Streitfeld wrote another detailed account of where the battle stands. Hachette and Amazon Dig In for a Long Fight Over Contract Terms. He notes "Amazon wants to do away with gatekeepers. It promises a world where books are cheap, where anyone can publish anything, where there are no editors or distributors saying this is not what is selling now, go away."The nauseating irony is, of course, that SPECTRE is now the bullying gatekeeper it has always denounced.
June 1 - David Carr's column in the NYTimes reads as if he can't quite decide which side of the battle to cheer on. In Amazon Absorbing Price Fight Punches, he opens by mentioning how lively the book convention was over the weekend. He goes on to say selling books is vastly different than selling tires or tube socks. "By blocking inventory, Amazon has become the less-than-everything store. Books may be a small fraction of what it sells, but books are precious, troves of speech, not just products for commerce. They were also the linchpin of the company’s early march to retail dominance. The symbolism is profound."Here he highlights that books are nothing like any other item that anyone sells. Yet, later in the column, he trumpets the ease of ordering from, and saving money with, SPECTRE. He doesn't seem to understand that buying anything from SPECTRE says you support what they do and how they do it.
May 29 - writing in The Guardian, Suzanne McGee's subtitle would lead you to believe she's grasped the larger picture ("Is Amazon Wrecking Your Beach Reads? The retail giant has been good to customers so far, but its petty fight with a publisher should make fans nervous about the future") but fails to make it clear if she does. "Amazon is collecting millions of dollars revenues – which it has poured into marketing and infrastructure development, growing the company to making us more reliant on it to meet our needs." Yes - reliant is a synonym for dependent. Dependent people don't think to shop anywhere else, can't imagine shopping anywhere else, and if SPECTRE continues to rule the roost and drive out competition, those that are reliant on SPECTRE will have no alternative but to shop there. You only have choice when choices are available.
But McGee goes off the rails with her last sentances: " It’s worth taking minute to remember that while the publishing industry may indeed be inefficient, as its critics have claimed, Amazon isn’t a crusader for consumer rights. It’s in business to make money for its shareholders. If it can help us save money along the way, well, that’s great. But we’d do well to remember that Amazon, like any other business, has no higher moral purpose at stake here." While it is true that any business must make profits to pay the bills and continue in business, as others are noting, selling books is not at all the same thing as selling tomatos or tricycles. Books are many things - forms of entertainment, works of art, messengers of ideas, tomes of warnings, methods of education, and forms of shared thoughts. It is worth repeating what David Carr wrote: "...books are precious, troves of speech, not just products for commenrce."
May 30 - in Slate, Evan Hughes' column ("Bringing Down The Hachette: Publishers could have thwarted the latest Amazon power grab. They didn't and books will suffer for it.") clearly deliniates the core of the threat: "If Amazon prevails and gains revenue that could have—and should have—gone to writers, that would be a lamentable outcome for literature. The available pot of money in the publishing business is essentially divided up among three key players: the retailer, the publisher, and the author. To the extent that the retailer—in this case, Amazon—wins a bigger share, the other two parties collectively lose. Amazon disputes this point by arguing that its low prices and convenient Kindle platform make people buy more books, thus “growing the pie.” But it’s hard to imagine that people are going to spend more and more of their finite income on books just because Amazon is getting its way and thriving. Among the three key players, the author and publisher are the ones devoted to producing interesting books, or at least trying. Amazon just sells the end product. (Its beleaguered publishing division remains a sideshow.) At heart, Amazon is basically a Walmart with some tech-company trappings. It is not truly a part of the book world. Amazon’s executives have never seemed sensitive to the fact that constantly squeezing the people who write and edit and publish the books could easily damage the quality of the books. Don’t you get what you pay for?"
June 1 - David Streitfeld published an interview he conducted with one of the Hachette authors affected by the fight. In "Amazon vs. Hachette fight 'heartbreaking to Malcolm Gladwell'". As a bookseller, I have to say Gladwell's egocentric view is stunningly narrow. He never once voices any concerns about questions of free speech, the dangers of monopolistic influence, or the impact all of this is having on other authors or his publisher as a whole."It’s sort of heartbreaking when your partner turns on you. Over the last 15 years, I have sold millions of dollars’ worth of books on Amazon, which means I have made millions of dollars for Amazon. I would have thought I was one of their best assets. I thought we were partners in a business that has done well". Nowhere does he speak about any other type of bookseller than Amazon - as if it is the only game in town, certainly the only one of importance:
Q: Amazon’s critics would say you were naive about this being a true partnership.
A: I don’t think it was destined to blow up. And I don’t think it’s entirely impossible that it can’t be fixed. We need Amazon and Amazon needs us. That’s a classic partnership.
Mr. Gladwell talks about it like it is an romantic relationship that allows no others. If that is the case, perhaps other booksellers should respect the relationship and stop stocking and selling his books. As a specialty shop that doesn't do either, I'm glad I can stand out of that spat. He does not appear to need independent booksellers at all. He comes off as tone-deaf to the larger issues of the fight and sounds concerned only with his own centrality.
All of this uproar about books may be eclipsed by other battles. June 3 - "Why Amazon Can Toy With Booksellers" by Timothy Stenovec points out 'Twice as many [Amazon] customers buy electronics as buy books these days,' said Mike Levin, a partner and co-founder of Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), a Chicago-based research firm. What's more, Levin said, it may not be long before books, which are the retailer's second-biggest category, get eclipsed by groceries, a category that includes diapers, cereal and toilet paper. CIRP's findings about the shopping habits of Amazon customers come from a survey of more than 1,000 people in the U.S. who purchased an item at Amazon between August 2013 and March 2014. 'People are as likely to buy groceries as buy books at Amazon,' Levin said. 'That should scare the s*** out of Kroger and Safeway.'"
To end, I include Paul Constant's column from The Stranger's website, "It's Time To Turn Your Back on Amazon: Why the Online Giant's Fight with a Publisher Signals the End of Guilt-Free Amazon Purchases." He rightly compares SPECTRE to Walmart (they treat their employees similarly and are both contributing to the 'Aspenization' of America) and how folks will give money to one company but not another even though there's not a nickle's worth of difference between them. "Seattleites who would never set foot in a Walmart are passionate about their love of Amazon. Ideals become easy prey when convenience is at stake. And it’s a matter of perception, too: Walmart puts its low-paid employees up front, parades their lack of dignity around for customers to see. Amazon gets to hide its poorly treated employees in warehouses, far from public view. Walmart’s cheaply made goods, all lined up and hanging on a rack, evoke the assembly lines of China. Amazon’s cheaply made goods, delivered individually in an attractive cardboard box to your door, seem like something magical; they don’t bear the fingerprints of people working for pennies a day in slave-labor conditions. All the ugliness of Amazon is behind the scenes, hidden behind a thick wall of corporate silence, and for that concealment, any number of people who consider themselves good citizens are willing to trade their loathing of Walmart for a deep and abiding love of the Great Walmart in the Sky. Turns out, that love might not be unconditional, after all."
As we've been saying for years - you can't shake the devil's hand and say you're only kidding.
7:00 PM Noir City Opening Night A double shot of WWII intrigue as Joseph Cotton and Orson Welles star in Journey Into Fear and The Third Man. Introduced by the Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller.
Friday, February 14
7:00 PM, Death is a Caress| Norway | 1949 | 92 Minutes A young mechanic, recently engaged, falls under the spell of a sophisticated married socialite who's brought in her car for repairs. The sexual bliss is ecstatic-but short-lived.
9:00 PM Death of a Cyclist | Spain | 1955 | 88 Minutes Juan Antonio Bardem was a true hero, bringing a new frankness (initially influenced by neorealism) and an oppositional political consciousness to Spanish cinema during the Franco era
Saturday, February 15
2:00 PM Wages of Fear | France | 1953 | 131 minutes Four men, trapped in a pestilent South American village, agree to transport a dangerous shipment of nitroglycerine through treacherous terrain.
4:30 PM Hardly a Criminal | Argentina | 1949 | 88 Minutes A bank employee (Jorge Salcedo) uses a loophole in Argentine law to concoct the perfect crime, planning to reap the rewards of his embezzlement after serving six years in prison.
7:00 PM Too Late For Tears | USA | 1949 | 99 Minutes For many years, all 35mm prints of Too Late for Tears were believed lost, but through the determined efforts of the Film Noir Foundation, sufficient original material has been discovered to enable a restoration, performed under the auspices of the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
9:00 PM Hitch-Hiker | USA | 1953 | 71 Minutes Two buddies on a fishing trip are hijacked by a nomadic killer who plans to murder them after they deliver him to safety.
Sunday, February 16
2:00 PM Murderers Are Among Us | Germany | 1946 | 85 Minutes A doctor, haunted by his service as a Nazi, falls in love with a camp survivor, but is compelled to seek vengeance on his commanding officer.
4:00 PM It Always Rains on Sunday | United Kingdom | 1947 | 92 Minutes An escaped convict tries to hide out at his former lover's house but she has since married and is far from keen on the idea.
7:00 PM Drunken Angel | Japan | 1948 | 102 Minutes An alcoholic doctor and a tubercular gangster forge an unexpected friendship after the doctor saves the callow crook's life, but the return of a criminal comrade sparks a tragic turn.
9:00 PM Brighton Rock | United Kingdom | 1947 | 92 Minutes Adapted from the Graham Greene novel, John Boulting's Brighton Rock opens on a sunny Whitsun bank holiday at the slightly tacky seaside resort of Brighton (the title refers to a local hard candy), people are dancing to the bands on the pier, and the shooting galleries, souvenir stands, and tea rooms are packed with day-trippers.
Monday, February 17
2:00 PM Pepe le Moko | France | 1937 | 93 Minutes Jean Gabin is suave Parisian gangster Pepe Le Moko, who's been hiding out in the Casbah, the Arab quarter of Algiers, while the heat is on. But he misses Paris and when he falls for a sexy French tourist, he seals his fate.
4:00 PM Rififi | France | 1955 | 135 Minutes This French equivalent of The Asphalt Jungle focuses on four professional crooks determined to execute the perfect heist.
7:00 PM Riptide | France | 1949 | 91 Minutes A mysterious young man (Gerard Philipe) visits a desolate coastal town during a bleak winter, soon followed by another watchful, curious stranger.
9:00 PM Quai des Orfèvres | France | 1947 | 106 Minutes Before he made The Wages of Fear and Diaolique, Henri-Georges Clouzot came up with this gritty thriller about a conniving chanteuse and her jealous husband who are involved in a murder and tracked by a clever police inspector. Restored with new, unexpurgated subtitles.
As you may've heard, Ama - er, um - SPECTRE recently put forth an offer to independent booksellers to become part of their 'team'. The gist of it is that we can sell their gizmos and their e-files and get a slice of their action for a period of two years. Here's their press release on the deal.
Amazon is offering a 6% discount on wholesale purchases of Kindle devices and up to a 30% discount on accessories. That means a KF HDX would cost a bookstore $216. Amazon will then give them a 10% commission on ebooks sold (and only ebooks sold, not apps, movies, music, audiobooks, or ebook rentals). Given that the upper limit selling price for a trade ebook is around $15, they’re looking at a maximum of $1.50, but with average prices in the 6 or 7 dollar range they’re looking at chump change in commissions.
Also, because of Amazon’s proprietary DRM, the bookstores can’t sell their own ebooks directly to try and get more of the pie.
The second option is to forgo the commissions in exchange for a 3% increase on the margin for the devices. Yeah… $7.50 isn’t going to convince anyone.
The thing is that people running independent bookstores aren’t stupid. For them to survive in the current state of the physical book selling market means that they’re actually probably very business savvy. So they are going to be able to see right through the smokescreen here. Business Insider summed it up perfectly: “Amazon has a plan to get indie bookstores to kill themselves”.
In every respect this is a terrible ripoff, especially when Kobo is offering a much better program through the ABA." [We here at SMB are part of the Kobo program.]
The New York Time's David Streitfeld asked JB for his thoughts on this and he's what he sent back:
I can't help but see this as a misleading attempt to counter the in-roads that Kobo has made with readers and fans of independent booksellers. Recently, we've read of Amazon shutting down part of its publishing due to a lack of success and profits (and stories about how Amazon itself is still not profitable). Something about this move has a feeling of retreat.
This release really doesn't provide much info. What's the discount that they're offering to booksellers on their gizmos? If independents can't make much money on the sale of the devices, they're at a disadvantage - selling the competitor's hardware, enriching the competitor, and not making much in return. There's also the issue of how an independent's customers get to the place to order they e-books. Are our customers just clicking on link on our website that then takes them to Amazon's? All that means is that they're selling independents the opportunity to become a new set of portals to funnel customers to Amazon. We help Amazon grow its business and, in return, we get a thin slice of the sale? That's not cooperation; that's being willingly complicit in your own execution.
“We are not enticed in the least by the latest ‘offer’ from Amazon. It’s a dagger disguised as an olive branch – the latest effort by Amazon to gain traction with indie customers and loyalists.”
—Lissa Muscatine, Politics and Prose, DC
“Hmmm, let’s see. We sell Kindles for essentially no profit, the new Kindle customer is in our store where they can browse and discover books, the new Kindle customer can then check the price on Amazon and order the ebook. We make a little on their ebook purchases, but then lose them as a customer completely after two years. Doesn’t sound like such a great partnership to me.”
— Carole Horne, Harvard Book Store, MA
“If past experience is any indication, Amazon is not doing this to be sweet to indies.”
— Dorothy Massey, Collected Works Bookstore, NM
and our personal favorite -
“They can go fuck themselves.”— Sarah McNally, McNally Jackson Books, NY
David Bolduc, owner of the Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo., called participation in the program "sleeping with the enemy. If anyone thinks Amazon is going to do you a favor, you better have someone walking behind you so you don't feel the stab. Their whole entire business model is predatory.... I don't see any possible way to live in the same ecosystem as Amazon. They don't want anybody else. They want to be the go-to source for everything in the world."
For me, it's a Main Street issue," said Anne Holman, co-owner of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah. "If I sell their Kindles after everything they've already done to indie bookstores, where would I be? It's about more than just bookstores: it's about the bike shop across the street, it's about the restaurants.... And it's not just the booksellers they've put out of business, it's the electronics store down the street, it's the other small businesses. I like our small businesses ecosystem and want it to flourish."
Sheila O'Reilly, owner of Dulwich Books in London, told the Bookseller: "I think I would search my heart and find that morally I just couldn't stock the Kindle. I know Amazon employ lots of people in this country but they also have head offices in Luxembourg and Ireland for tax avoidance reasons and I couldn't ignore that. If it was more of a level playing field between Amazon and independents, then maybe I would think about it, but it isn't."
David Dawkins, manager at Pages of Hackney bookshop in East London, said Amazon "has made a point of aggressively diverting people's habit of using the high street. The company has made it clear that is what they want to do and I would be very surprised if this signals a change in policy towards independent retailers and the high street. I also wouldn't want our customers to think that we were doing trade with 'the bad guys.' I think we may lose quite a lot of respect if our customers thought we were sleeping with the enemy."
~ Last month, towards the end of October, Ama - er, um - SPECTRE announced that it was raising it's minimum amount an order needed to achieve to get free shipping from $25 to $35. Whether this was to recoup some revenue due to the policy, or to drive people toward their Prime service whereby the customer pays upfront for a membership and then is enrolled to get services whether they use them or not, is anyone's guess. (Free shipping on all orders is one of the services.) Either way, they're moving to do less for free and to use their pervasive computer systems to make suggestions to people so that they'll buy just a little more to get up to the now higher free shipping total.
~ SPECTRE announced a joint plan with the United States Postal Service to provide Sunday delivery.The Postal Service plans to use flexible scheduling to do this and says it will hire no new employees, though we've seen nothing about what this will cost in payroll. Is SPECTRE going to eat these charges or are they to be passed along to their ordinary consumers (Prime members will pay no shipping charges for Sunday delivery)?
~Then there is the inexplicable phenomenom of SPECTRE being a massive, worldwide outfit that still makes little to no profit for its stockholders, an anomoly on Wall Street.
Derek Thompson wrote in The Atlantic in October"Defenders say Amazon is trading the present for the future, spending all its revenue on a global scatter plot of warehouses that will make the company indomitable. Eventually, the theory goes, investors expect Amazon to complete its construction project and, having swayed enough customers and destroyed enough rivals, to “flip the switch,” raising prices and profits greatly. In the meantime, they’re happy to keep buying stock, offering an unqualified thumbs-up for heavy spending.
But this theory assumes a practically infinite life span for Amazon. The modern history of retail innovation suggests that even the behemoths can be overtaken suddenly. Sears was still America’s largest retailer in 1982, but just nine years later, its annual revenues were barely half those of Walmart. “The economic countryside is littered with the carcasses of companies that thought they had a [durable] competitive advantage,” says Alex Field, an economic historian at Santa Clara University. “Just look at BlackBerry or AOL.”
Amazon is not as insulated from its rivals as some think it is. Walmart, eBay, and a bounty of upstarts are all in the race to dominate online retail. Amazon’s furious spending on new buildings and equipment isn’t an elective measure; it’s a survival plan. The truth is that the company benefits from a beautiful but delicate tautology: Amazon has won investors’ trust with a reputation for spending everybody to death, and it can spend everybody to death because it has won investors’ trust. For now."
Benedict Evans wrote this past August, "Equally, the problem with saying 'we can't tell from outside how Amazon is really doing, but it will become profitable, just wait and see' is that you could be waiting for ever without ever knowing if you're wrong."
Eugene Wei is one who thinks SPECTRE's business model is genius, that in this model short-term profits are not the point and are unimportant. Which business model is it that he approves of? The original one where there were to be no warehouses at all, that everything would be done in the great flowing river of the internet, where it would have no physical presense, no stock, no stockers - just office workers sitting at computers and sending customers' orders to manufacturers. Is that the genius business model, the one that was ditched long ago?
Oh - in case you were wondering if we were going to become part of SPECTRE's continuing efforts at Global Domination...