That Amazon Thing

So, amazon is buying (or has bought?) GoodReads, and a lot of people are in a tizzy over it, talking about how Amazon is going to become this giant monopoly and…well, details are a little sparse as to how they’ll abuse their power, but they will dammit.

Okay, I can get some of the fear there, at least as a first reaction.  Amazon is big, but few people realize how big.  Their cloud servers run a disproportionate amount of the internet across a wide variety of companies and areas.  It’s all Amazon, but I haven’t (to date) heard about that leading to an abuse of power yet.

Mostly, I’m not worried about it.  In fact, I think it kind of normal and think that (potentially) it could be positive without having a whole lot of deleterious effects.  Amazon is notoriously bad at recommendations when viewing one book, to give you others like it that you might want to buy.

But Travis!, you may say, don’t you think that Amazon trying to convince you to buy more related things is a little…skeevie?

To which I say:  nope!  That would be a huge boon for me, something very few places offer.  I could look at American Gods, say, and it would tell me other books somewhat like it that aren’t Neil Gaiman novels.  You mean I could find other books I might like?!  The horror!

Okay, so most people aren’t worried about Amazon recommendations draining their wallets with their manipulative postings of things they want.  Being able to show similar things is an all-around plus, I think, and something Amazon can’t do well right now.  So they did what all the tech giants do and, if they can’t make it themselves, they buy someone who can.

How do you think Apple got Siri?

And I have no problem with acquisitions like that.  Small teams can make really good products, because they are focused and passionate.  However, they can’t realize the full potential of them – sometimes, size matters.  Look at Siri again; the team that developed it wouldn’t have been able to get it so deeply integrated on the iPhone (they could have made an app, but it would have been more limited).  So it’s win-win-win.  The giant company gets new technology they can integrate, the small company gets a huge paycheck and their technology widely used, and the consumer gets better stuff.

Amazon is good at selling books, but not so good with recommendations and the social aspect.  Goodreads is pretty popular, but in need of some design help.  So this could be mutually beneficial, depending on how things proceed (and yes, I know we don’t know yet, but I want to reiterate that point:  we don’t know yet, which means we also don’t know that it will be a bad thing).

More boggling to me, I hear people saying that Amazon is bad for authors, and that I just don’t get.  Amazon has sold billions of books (this may be an exaggerations, but hell, it may not be that much of one).  Amazon is helping to lead the self-publishing revolution, and has made some authors lots of money, and lots of authors some money.

They put books in the hands of consumers and help authors publish.  That’s a plus.

Now, that’s not to say that I think everything they do is roses.  The “used” eBook market sounds like it could be really, really bad at worst, or just a little bad at best (though I am open to being convinced otherwise).  There have also been some issues in the past with them reclaiming digital books they’ve sold (which is a huge overreach, IMO, and think they should cut that shit out).

But mostly, do you know why I’m not worried?  Amazon sells tons of movies, too.  (I buy about half my movies from them).  They own IMDB, the definitive movie information source, and have for 15 years.  Maybe I’m just not up on the right gossip, but I’ve heard of approximately zero issues with that.  Now, Amazon doesn’t make movies (yet anyhow – it’s Amazon, they’re liable to try anything once), but even if they did I wouldn’t expect any problems there, either.

So that’s my take on the whole affair.  I mostly don’t see what the big deal is, and disagree that Amazon is bad for authors (since it is usually said categorically).  But what about you?  What do you think about this whole thing?

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