Amazon: Threat or Menace?
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In his introduction, Stone writes that Bezos himself thinks it is premature to try to judge Amazon’s place in history. He’s right about that. The questions raised by Amazon’s success are open. It may well be that a single-minded fixation on delivering low prices and convenience — the Walmart and Amazon way — delivers so much benefit to consumers that all of society is better off as a result. When I think back on just the last few months and consider my Amazon purchases — a phone charger, an external hard-drive on my computer, a blender, a book on government manufacturing policy that would not conceivably be available at any local brick-and-mortar outlet — I know that I have saved both time and money while boosting Jeff Bezos’ bottom line. And I don’t want to go back to the way that things were before. Multiply by that a billion or two and we should be able to measure meaningful economy-wide productivity gains.
But I don’t yet know what Amazon means for the long-term future of the publishing industry or for the ability of authors to make a decent living or for the brick-and-mortar retail sector that still accounts for so many jobs. When we’re all buying our groceries and our jewelry and our books and our clothes and our electronics from an Amazon that fulfills our needs near instantly via robot workers, what’s left? Where does it all end?
I doubt even Bezos knows, so Brad Stone can be excused for not delivering his own answer. But I’d like a book called “The Everything Store” to push a little harder on posing the question.