Selling Our Souls to Amazon

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I came upon this article in the New York Times recently. It describes a very ugly and soulless world of working at Amazon.

Somehow, no matter what spin Amazon puts on this it rings true because of the way Amazon behaves with the rest of us. Might Amazon’s treatment of its employees also translate to its treatment of us customers and authors?

It seems to me Machiavelli could take a lesson or two from Jeff Bezos. As Amazon customers, a good portion of us lay down $100 (OK, $99) a year money to be part of the brotherhood of Amazon’s  “Prime” members. In turn, we get free two-day shipping. Or, if we want to be a “Prime Fresh” honcho it’ll set us back $300.  For what? Still two-day shipping on most stuff. These may pan out if you’re in a rush, or are planning to buy most everything on Amazon. (Maybe if we’re in such a rush, we should just go to the store and buy what we want–even faster than overnight shipping!). In other words, we pay Amazon to buy from them.

And for us authors? Here’s another fun item: In just the last couple of months, Amazon has declared it won’t pay authors when a customer buys one of their ebooks. Instead, Amazon waits to pay until after the customer–who “owns” the book–reads it. In other words, Amazon will only pay authors for whatever a customer reads. Amazon collects whatever the book sells for, but if the reader only reads a tenth of the book, the author gets paid a tenth of whatever price Amazon collected. Authors could come up being paid zip, even though Amazon collected money.

This power scares me, but what scares me more is how we can be so blind as to hand it over. Yet we do for the sake of ease, or immediate savings, and doing so, we sell something of ourselves. It seems we’re going Doctor Faustus, selling our souls to Amazon’s devil. The power we give Google and its omnipresent prying into our privacy also comes to mind.

Is this what we want? I wonder.

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