Amazon, or aka, Scum of the Universe

You know, I honestly used to enjoy buying certain books from this giant non taxing paying Walmart in the ethernet sky. That was before slave labor was discovered, and the foisting of kindle on the masses began. This new development takes the slime bucket award. Mysterious Galaxy, a fantastic indie bookstore featuring mystery and science fiction stock posted this on their newsletter:

“This week Amazon.com announced that customers who go into bricks-and-mortar stores this Saturday, December 10, and use the company’s smartphone price check app on selected products will be rewarded with a discount when purchasing from them instead, up to $5. While books are not included in the promotion, we want you to know how much we care about independent businesses and how antagonistic we think this move is.”

Mysterious Galaxy went on to urge customers to shop indie this Saturday, to show support for your town and neighbors.

I came to this info late, obviously, and am simply furious. Of course I know amazon is doing nothing illegal, and naturally those who love capitalism in all of its ugly forms will claim it’s just business as usual. But sometimes legality isn’t the issue, morality is. And we can all rest assured that Jeff Bezos isn’t well endowed, in the morality department.

Here’s what the CEO of The American Booksellers Association had to say in an open letter:

“Dear Jeff Bezos,

We’re not shocked, just disappointed.

Despite your company’s recent pledge to be a better corporate citizen and to obey the law and collect sales tax, you created a price-check app that allows shoppers to browse Main Street stores that do collect sales tax, scan a product, ask for expertise, and walk out empty-handed in order to buy on Amazon. We suppose we should be flattered that an online sales behemoth needs a Main Street retail showroom.

Forgive us if we’re not.

We could call your $5 bounty to app-users a cheesy marketing move and leave it at that. In fact, it is the latest in a series of steps to expand your market at the expense of cities and towns nationwide, stripping them of their unique character and the financial wherewithal to pay for essential needs like schools, fire and police departments, and libraries.

But maybe we’ve misunderstood.

Even though you’ve spent millions on lobbyists, fired affiliates in seven states, and threatened to shut warehouses to avoid collecting sales tax, maybe you really mean it now when you say you support a level playing field.

It’s up to you to show us.

In the meantime, indie retailers remain the heart of countless communities — offering discovery, energy, support, and unique experiences. See you on Main Street.

Sincerely,

Oren Teicher, CEO
American Booksellers Association”

Unfortunately for all of us, Bezos doesn’t give a rat’s you know what about any one’s opinion. Clearly, he has taken the robber baron moniker seriously and intends to carry through with as much selfish behavior as possible, to maintain his empire of ill gotten gains.

What I want to know is, where are all the people who championed Bezos early on, who are usually so in tune with the common people? I’m talking about you, Oprah Winfrey. I remember seeing Bezos on your show when he just began his enterprise, and you couldn’t praise his accomplishments enough, even though he’d yet to turn a profit, except for himself. Where are the condemnations for him–now that amazon has been exposed as an operation whose labor practices include working people to the breaking point, supplying no relief from unheard of temperatures, not even to open a side door to the warehouse, and utilizing a temp agency as a come on to laborers with the false promise of permanent employment, only to lay every person off who comes within spitting distance of that promised land? You who champion reading, you who created a book club that millions followed like lemmings, where are you now when your book god has decided he is above paying taxes like any other legitimate business, and has declared war on brick on mortar businesses by bribing amazon patrons to go into their neighborhood stores and find the product they need, and then go to their computer and buy from him?

We all know how you kindled his gadget to replace the physical book–you practically swooned over the thing, and him. Does it bother you at all that the only books you are allowed to read on his kindle must be bought from him? Why do I think, probably not? You’re rich enough to have every damn electronic device to download whatever book you feel like browsing at any given time–kindle would be just one. You certainly would never feel the unfairness of this practice. God, you even have a class on how to use it on your website! Nothing morally appalling for you at all? Given the newest knowledge that your pal refuses to pitch into helping the economy recover, has no problem trying to collapse any other business out there that local communities depend on for their tax revenue–for those schools you are always supposedly championing? Or, is Africa the only spot deserving of decent schools?

I’m disgusted with Bezos, but I think I’m more disgusted with those who built up his reputation, who practically make his fortune for him, in their criticism-less ballyhoo. And who now remain silent while his power hungry juggernaut takes out as many little bookstores, businesses, that it can.

Is this supposed to be the future of the printed word? One man controlling what is downloadable onto devices, one man trying to keep from paying his fair share to help our country responding to demands for him to be morally responsible, he begins an assault designated to gut REAL businesses?

I’d love to hear from Ms. Winfrey, on how SHE justifies support to a man and company whose practices would have once been exposed on her program as morally reprehensible and in need of stopping.

And since hell will freeze over before that happens, in the mean time, we who understand just exactly what Bezos is doing and hoping to accomplish in the future, should be spreading the word, ending all purchases, and try to buy what we can from our local community tax paying businesses who have a stake in OUR future, as opposed to Bezos, who only cares about how much more money just HE can make. If he were a real man, a real human being, he would step up to his responsibilities gladly and contribute to someone else’s future other than his own selfish morally bankrupt one.

Visit Mysterious Galaxy: http://www.mystgalaxy.com/

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  • Great article!
    And since I read your first article about Amazon’s malfeasance, I’ve boycotted it.
    Never enjoyed shopping there anyway. I have much better luck with biblio.com and
    abebooks… please don’t tell me they are up to no good!

    I had no idea that O was a Bezos champion. Did they cut a deal book-wise somehow? She makes a book an O selection and sales profits are channeled back to her is my evil scenario. No, I can’t see that really happening. But I do feel disgusted. Ugh.

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    • Unfortunately the parasite that is Amazon also owns Abe books! I kid you not.

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  • Why in the world would any book store let customers bring electronic devices in with them ?

    Kissing electronic tail to spite your face or please your customers is as rude as the cellular devices that people carry about .

    We have had a storefront book store for nearly forty years , and people who enter sometimes feel that they are entering airport security , as our rule is no scanners , no cellular phones , and no kindles or laptops .

    Our retail store is a ” throwback ” of the most primitive type , and we like it like that.

    Had some folk turn on their heels and depart. Too frackin ‘ bad. Their loss , not ours.

    Some places need to remain cellular free , kindle safe , and certainly have no scanners about .

    An independent book store seems as good a place as any.

    As for Jeff Bezos and his gang , never bought any item from his wares , nor have I ever sold any item on his sites .

    Life is too short to compromise values , and I will not do any business with this devil this spin around the sun.

    Signed

    Ludely Ite

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  • Many used bookstores also sell on the internet, and many of those also sell on Amazon. Many will tell you that they couldn’t survive without Amazon.
    Virtually none of them have joined TomFolio which is an independent site owned by the booksellers. If all those who sell on the internet joined and promoted TomFolio it would become a significant selling tool. But that would be too much trouble. Easier to sit on their stools and complain about Amazon.

    I don’t sell on the internet. I no longer order books for customers because I felt obligated to get the best price I could for them, and that often meant the double whammy of ordering from a megalister such as Better World Books via Amazon.

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  • There will doubtless be a tsunami of response to the offer, to which I contributed my two cents already: http://booksinnorthport.blogspot.com/2011/12/why-should-i-be-surprised.html

    Yes, there are many small sellers on the Big Site and on similar not-quite-so-predatory big sites. Some online sellers collect and pay sales tax and report income. Others do not.

    Will the playing field ever be “level”? All I know is I’m not giving up and leaving the field yet, and as long as I’m a bookseller I’ll take pride in operating with my principles intact.

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  • I’ve successfully sold books on the Internet for over five years on Amazon and nearly a dozen other online marketplaces. It wasn’t until earlier this year when I finally opened an Indie brick-and-mortar storefront and started hobnobbing with fellow Indie booksellers that I became aware of how disliked Amazon is by the physical bookselling community. And it has me scratching my head.

    It’s not that Amazon shouldn’t be criticized. This latest stunt with the $5 bribe is certainly over the top by any measurement of decency. I mean, it’s just plain unnecessary to attack other booksellers in that fashion, especially when you already command such a large share of the market.

    But really, to practically paint a company as evil incarnate simply because it’s a fierce competitor smacks a bit of book envy.

    The farmers who destroyed Eli Whitney’s cotton gin didn’t stop progress. And I imagine horse and buggy manufactures scoffed at the first crude automobiles that rumbled through the muddy streets. Heck, even IBM laughed at Bill Gates when he insisted on retaining ownership rights to DOS; believing that the “real” money was in hardware. Okay…we all know how it turned out for cotton farming, horse drawn carriages, and O/S 2.

    Lets not kid ourselves about the future of bookselling. Digital is coming in a big way. It’s already here in a little way. Will there always be a niche for physical books? Yes, but the dominant medium for information dissemination is inevitably going to be digital, most likely in a format that’s not even invented yet.

    We can rail against the innovators who are upsetting our physical world, or we can hop onto that train and ride it into the future. We have to adapt to changing market conditions, or be crushed by them.

    Bob Lewis insightfully pointed out that booksellers have an alternative with Tom Folio (see his previous post below). If Indie bookseller banded together they could mount an effective defense. But unfortunately, they won’t. Don’t ask me why, but it’s true.

    Nevertheless, some will cry “foul!” when others take the initiative and command the market. Booksellers won’t do it themselves, but they’ll despise anyone else who does. That’s not moral. It’s not even fair.

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    • Joe, you are missing the point. No one is dragging their feet and think that electronic isn’t the future. But there is a big difference between a company who treats employees like indentured servants, and companies that don’t. Add on to the bribe that by your description “over the top by any measurement of decency” and you have a rather disgusting immoral entity. Evil incarnate? Perhaps not, but Bezos can’t possibly be considered simply a ‘fierce competitor.’ I don’t think you should use Gates as a moral compass, since he stole from Jobs, to help out his dynasty.

      Is it alright with you as a indie bookseller that his digital ‘initiative’ is limited to purchases from amazon? Meaning, if you buy a kindle, it’s not like an ipad where you can purchase downloadable books from anywhere, but must buy them from amazon? You, as a bookseller who probably has kindles for sale, and may eventually have downloadable books to sell, don’t mind that you will make no profit due to Bezos’ practice?

      There’s a huge difference between ‘book envy’ and the knowledge that a bulldozer is aiming itself in your direction, hoping to wipe your hard work out just because it can.

      Did you even consider the fact that amazon pays no taxes? Don’t you have to pay taxes now that you actually own a store? Do you still find him a fierce competitor or a cheat who will scam, throw weight around, and threaten to get his way, much like the robber barons of the past? They retained their ill gotten gains with not much problem–and any problem that they did have in the public eye, they bought away–such philanthropists Carnegie, Rockefeller, et al became! Who wants to bet that Bezos all of a sudden contributes a pittance of his worth, which to the rest of us is billions, to some needy charity? Just like Gates. Too bad Bezos doesn’t look at his own employees as worthy, and treat them as such.

      Return to this forum after you have been in business for awhile, and let us know how it’s working out for you, as the market keeps shrinking thanks to the non tax paying underhanded business practices of your beloved amazon.

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      • Diane, I get your point. And it’s coming through loud and clear. In many respects we’re in violent agreement. But it’s some of the subtleties of your message on which we differ.

        Is Amazon predatory? You can convincingly make that case. The line between “fierce competitor” and “immoral entity” can sometimes be fuzzy. If one is successfully running a profitable business that grows by leaps and bounds each year, then that individual certainly views him or herself as a fierce competitor.

        If one is driven out of business due to the business practices of another competitor, then the losing party will certainly consider the opposition an immoral entity. It’s just human nature.

        In Jeff Slutsky’s classic book, “Street Smart Marketing,” he tells the story about a business owner who offered a discount to any customer who tore his competitors yellow page ad out of the phone book and brought it to his store. He did a booming business for a short while. That is, until his infuriated competitors ran similar promotions and the instigator’s ads were ripped out of the phone book as well. Is appears that Jeff Bezo’s may have read Slutsky’s book too.

        And yes, Bill Gate stole the graphical interface from Steve Jobs. But how can you ignore the fact that Steve Jobs stole it from Xerox? You didn’t think Jobs invented it did you?

        Look, I think Amazon’s tactic of directly attacking Indie booksellers is abhorrent. I find it incredulous that no one has suggested that they have broken at least one predatory business practice law. I’m just not convinced that railing against Amazon as a corporate entity is the correct response. I think devising counter tactics is more productive for the industry and for the consumer. Maybe filing a class action lawsuit for Rico violations is appropriate.

        But to answer your question, “Did you even consider the fact that amazon pays no [sales] taxes?” The answer is yes, I have. Quite extensively. So much so that I’ve written about it here and on my own blog a number of times.

        The fact that the interstate commerce laws permit Amazon to avoid state sales taxes based on nexus law isn’t Amazon’s fault. You can blame that one on the Quill Corporation, (Google Quill vs. North Dakota). But nexus is a shield that all remote resellers use when they sell across state lines, not just Amazon.

        If existing interstate commerce laws are no longer in the public interest, then they should be changed. Demonizing businesses for following them is simply wrong. If everyone used that as their moral barometer, then we can all demonize anyone who obeyed any law with which we disagreed.

        Still, I thank you Diane for taking the time to respond to my article. I’ve always enjoyed your writing and I look forward to much more.

        Joe Waynick, author
        Internet Bookselling Made Easy! How to Earn a Living Selling Used Books Online
        Bookseller Resources: http://www.InternetBookselling.com
        Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/joewaynick

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        • Your statement that “demonizing businesses for following [interstate commerce laws] is simply wrong” overlooks what has become the elephant in the room of American politics and the economy. As shown by Amazon’s extensive and expensive attempts to derail a California law requiring online retailers to pay tax, oligarchic corporations are not simply “following the laws” these days, they often have a hand in writing them–or overturning them.

          In both of your comments, Mr Waynick you fall into the common fallacy of speaking of “the market” as though it exists apart from or above human beings. For 30 years Americans have believed in the most absurd of dieties: that “invisible hand” of the market place, which Grandpa Reagan assured us would operate (like some benevolent god) with our best interests in mind.

          Of course, to anyone paying attention, our economy has been controlled by a number of very human and far-from-benevolent hands–almost all of them very dirty indeed, some of them bloody.

          There is indeed a point in criticizing Amazon beyond the mere “envy” you suggest: quite simply it has to do with clinging to ethical and humane business practices in the face of those who would obfuscate the real forces operating behind and through your mystified “market forces.”

          Any market consists of human beings, and over many centuries, and in spite of major and recurrent setbacks, human beings have arrived at certain notions of what it means to behave–and, yes, to conduct business and labor relations–in a human fashion.

          As a former bookbuyer and manager of a few independent bookstores in Manhattan I know first-hand of the gap that can exist between how the law may allow an employee to be treated, for instance, and what a basic ethical sense would dictate.

          Much as many Americans like to pretend otherwise, the “invisible hand of the marketplace” does not make our individual decisions for us. Each of us has that responsibility for him- or herself.

          For, ultimately, history has demonstrated over and over again that simply “following the law” is no excuse for unethical and inhumane choices. Lest all of us risk becoming the eponymous character of Joseph Losey’s film Mr Klein, who builds his own thriving fine art business in accordance with Nazi laws that create what certain people these days would simply term “favorable market conditions”.

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          • Well said, Steven.

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          • Thank you for your thoughtful and eloquent response Steve, but I’m afraid we’re simply going to have to agree to disagree.

            The attempt by Amazon’s management to influence legislation to further the interests of the corporation is no more the “elephant in the room” than environmental activists using their influence to stop construction of a housing unit to save a half dozen kangaroo rats. That’s because it’s the right of every American to petition government to create or overturn laws that conflict with their own self interests. That’s called democracy.

            Anyone who has carefully read Adam Smith knows that the so-called “invisible hand” of the market is far from being divorced from individuals. On the contrary, the “market” is the embodiment of choices made in the self interests of millions of individuals. It’s up to businesses to respond to the aggregate of those choices and develop products and services demanded by the customers they serve. That’s the essence of capitalism.

            Market forces are neither benevolent, Godly, nor mystical. The market is a construct, an abstract idea to describe the effects of economic choices made by large numbers of people. If you want to assign labels then you might as well call any individual who makes an economic decision based purely on self-interest “absurd,” “dirty,” and “bloody.” That’s because individuals make up the market, the government, and society as a whole.

            Personally, I choose not to be that cynical.

            The problem with trying to force your notions of “ethical and humane business practices” on the rest of us is that I and others may have very different views on what’s ethical and humane. Consequently, short of advocating the type of Nazi totalitarianism you’re so eager to cite, the only rational, and civilized, recourse is for the peaceful attempt to influence government and laws to shape society into what the majority consider acceptable standards of behavior.

            By definition, that means some number of people will disagree with those established norms. Unfortunately, the constitution only guarantees equal opportunity for all, not equal outcome, as socialists would have the country believe.

            In reality, there’s no disembodiment of market forces and individuals making countless economic decisions in their own self interests. Anyone who believes otherwise probably believes in the tooth fairy as well.

            Joe Waynick, author
            Internet Bookselling Made Easy! How to Earn a Living Selling Used Books Online
            Bookseller Resources: http://www.InternetBookselling.com
            Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/joewaynick

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          • Hello StevenDV! And hello, Joe!
            I would reply to Joe’s Jan. 3rd comment directly, but there is no ‘reply to this comment’ under his.

            There comes a day when lobbying for individual advancement, say of a company like amazon, passes over the line of what is good for the entire country–and although the US prides itself on individualism–the good of the masses outweighs what is good for the individual. Clearly what is good for the masses in CA is to reap revenue from a company who can certainly afford to be taxed, fairly, or as fairly as any corporation is taxed.
            “short of advocating the type of Nazi totalitarianism you’re so eager to cite, the only rational, and civilized, recourse is for the peaceful attempt to influence government and laws to shape society into what the majority consider acceptable standards of behavior.”

            Here I turn the tables on your argument–who are you to decide that the majority believe your view of capitalism as ‘acceptable standards of behavior?” Most people can’t understand basic economic principals, let alone understand ethical behavior. What people do understand, is they can buy books cheaper through amazon. That’s the bottom line. They can buy stuff cheap from Walmart too. What they don’t understand. and some don’t care about, is that there is a larger price to pay for all of us, when we go for those bargains. A vicious cycle. Buy from amazon, jobs are lost in the community, tax revenue is lost from the stores that are closed, and the workers are treated as if we were living when sweat shops were popular.

            Buy from Walmart, American jobs fall like flies, while slave labor in China provide our bargains, which in turn eliminates jobs in the US which in turn forces families to turn to cheap crap from Walmart. Corporations want their bottom line to grow–and when I say corporations, I mean the few people on the top–they are compensated beyond their worth, value, or even King Midas’s standard. So they send labor overseas, which in turn create job losses in the US and drive American nuts when they have to speak to some nitwit in India or the Phillipines about phone service in a small NJ community. All perfectly legal. And why is that? Lobbyists in congress. And why is this allowed? Money money money for politicians.

            Sure, everyone should have the right to protest to make their voice heard, but there should be concrete ethical regulations for such lobbying, and financial limits–because the richest shouldn’t be able to swash the less powerful just because they can. And if thats wishful thinking, it’s better than accepting the corrupt greed that permeates this country’s democracy and has turned it into a corporate state of totalitarianism.

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          • I’m quite content to agree to disagree, Joe, but on some minor points we don’t actually disagree. My point is that the “market” is not divorced from humans or individuals, which also seems to be your point (though you frame it as though you are correcting my error).

            My point was not to disagree with Adam Smith’s conception of the market but with the way in which (especially in the last 30 years) his conception has been deified and mystified.

            Though, by the way, I find it interesting that those who profess to be Adam Smith’s disciples of “self-interest” never seem to know Smith’s TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE, with its emphasis on empathy. Nor to remember that Smith considered self-interest good only insofar as it benefitted public welfare. Can you honestly say that present-day capitalism is benefitting American public interests?

            If so, I think you have a very particular notion of capitalism.

            The capitalism of today differs a great deal from that of 50 years ago, or that of the 1950s–that period which older white Americans generally regard as a “golden age.” I won’t repeat the statistics regarding tax rates, wages, income, banking regulations, anti-trust regulations, etc, which by now should be familiar to many people, but for this reason your lesson on the “essence of capitalism” seems irrelevant to me. We are not talking about its “essence”, nor about any other ahistoricized mystification, but its current embodiment. It is its current unfettered form that is the problem for me and for many others.

            As for your notion of democracy… Considering the many warnings from the “Founding Fathers” about the dangers of allowing money to influence politics, are you really content with the idea that legislation should depend upon whether, say, Exxon-Mobil or the Sierra Club can spend more money to buy politicians?

            I suppose you are, as your example of Amazon trying to influence legislation versus environmental activists trying “to save a half dozen kangaroo rats” leaves little doubt about which party’s interest you consider more legitimate.

            You also write that it’s “the right of every American to to petition government to overturn or create laws that conflict with their own self-interest.” Would you, like the current Supreme Court, consider Amazon “an American”? Is Texaco “an American”–like you or I am?

            And even if you do consider corporate entities “Americans”–bestowing human rights upon them while actual flesh-and-blood individuals are being deprived of what was once considered elemental American rights such as habeus corpus–are you really in favor of “democracy” being determined by who has the most money to buy politicians with?

            I guess I’m old-fashioned, but I don’t consider that democracy at all. To do so is (to use your word) to be extremely “cynical” indeed.

            Finally, I’m quite sure I made no attempt to “force [my] notions” of ethical and humane business practices on anyone. I know that many Americans who can regard the latest statistics on the large percentage of American children living in poverty with complete calm get extremely distressed by even the slightest hint that someone somewhere may disapprove of something they’re doing–much less try to regulate it. But if you reread what I wrote, you’ll see I was writing only in regards to how I felt about certain matters, and emphasizing that each individual made his or her own choices.

            In a similar way, many gung-ho Americans who revel in notions of competition also get their feelings badly hurt if one mentions Nazis–or a film set in that context–as an example of how an individual can act in accordance with a law and still appear, at least to some, as morally culpable. Poor little lambs, I really must remember to be more careful.

            Would you have preferred the example of slave owners who, safe within the bounds of law, held their slaves–even as, in other parts of the world, slavery had been abolished decades earlier?

            Or something more current? Like the fact that the very same procedure–waterboarding–that the US considered a war crime punishable by death after WW II (they executed Japanese commanders for using it), is now considered by the US to be perfectly legal when employed in their own interests? In this case each individual has two distinct and opposed versions of law that he or she could take refuge in. Interesting, huh?

            I know what I think about that for myself, but I fear I’ve already treaded on enough tender feet.

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          • Dianne, Steven,
            This argument/discussion is about as productive as arguing the existence of god/goddesses/gods – or devils like Bezos.

            Save your breath. These people will go on arguing that eternal growth will save us all, and that the reason all the jobs have gone to China and the Philippines is that Americans and Canadians are too lazy to work for pennies.

            And if you don’t like it, you can vote – for either party (heads I win, tails you lose) or you can run yourself as an independent – you only need to raise a few million dollars – no doubt Bozo would chip in, eh?

            Discussing economics with a capitalist is like discussing freedom and human dignity with a slave-owner.

            Listen to Rush Limbaugh some time. If you don’t know any better, and if you have neither the skills nor the inclination to research what he says, it could actually seem to make sense.
            And if you argue with him, you just give him credibility.

            It’s so boring to read people who refer to Adam Smith etc who have never even read him – let alone understood him – not that he’s infallible. And as Steven noted – like the Bible, you can pick the bits you like and ignore the bits you don’t like.

            You are much better off putting your time and effort into something constructive.
            Bob

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          • Good advice, Bob–I’ll heed it.

            It’s like arguing with a virus.

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    • Why ….grrrrrr. if I had a buggy whip , I would be tempted to use it !

      Horse carriage body manufacturers modified their business models to include early automotive bodies as means of adaptive survival .

      Given the excess in human lives that now are unemployed , the current American work force resembles Vonnegut’s future world scenario as depicted in his first novel , Player Piano . A current generation of unemployed youth and underemployed University minted diploma holding youth might end up working on the road gangs that Vonnegut envisioned in 1952 , ” and so it goes “.

      Perhaps the early trade guilds had the right idea after all when it came to guarding their secrets .

      Sure as the sun rises I told my fellow rare book sellers in the 1980’s as much , and that they were selling our trade secrets , prices , and career work cheap by joining up with the nascent internet movement .

      Opening the door for a new generation of untrained , unskilled instant just add internet book sellers that have been the bane of my existence for the past fifteen years , and have reduced the once artful joy of cataloging a rare book to a dog and pony show involving a photograph , sketchy description , and ” caveat emptor ‘ as the password to internet rare book purchases .
      We always sold a fair amount of books off continent , though I will admit it has made selling books in these foreign markets a bit easier .

      That being said , we often filled e bags with multiple titles and shipped off a rather large parcel , instead of puzzling how to fit a five pound quarto into a format that allows the book seller to find a profit on a twenty five dollar book that costs forty five dollars to ship and comes with associated fees by abe books on the post.

      I certainly see a great deal of primitive agrarian practices returning to vogue in the 21C that owe more to the 19C than the revolutionary technological excess of the 20C that has got us into the current stew that the world mucks about in.

      I advocate less reliance on the internet as a means of survival in the book business , and advocate storefronts in urban areas as the new wave of the future , which as these keystrokes that have past in a second tell me , is NOW !

      It appears young feller that you have joined an honorable career path , and if you pay attention to your brighter clients and people that you will meet that pass through your portal you will prosper far more than you can begin to imagine in many ways bibliophilic and otherwise.

      That being said , good luck!

      Truth is that most of us career book sellers who always had open shops and did not operate out of the cozy confines of a home , office , or apartment have been a different breed .

      Certainly a breed apart from the internet only dollar sellers with their business plans that dovetail into the amazon or e bay model of existence .

      Or the cozy book sellers who for years worked out of their homes without facing the overhead that a street level retailer on a monthly basis .

      I am a member of tomfolio.com and gladly chuck in the monthly charge to have the ability to list books on this site at a lighter stroke both in price and postage , and have had decent results in attaining direct sales in this fashion.

      It amazes me how in the course of a years sales on abe books how many ” book sellers ” order books via the abe books network and thus help abe rake another eighteen percent from our sales .

      Jeff Bezos is a great business operator , and his amazon company racks up plenty of sales , though as the rather ubiquitous author of this post remarks , his ethics can be examined with more clarity given a track record that includes child labor law practices , and other less than ethical concerns.

      Plus , if you really examine the fiscal history of amazon , it appears to me that they have actually earned money only a few quarters of their existence , and their stock trades at an artificial high level , with the concern that they are into hock with regards to their bottom line borrowing from banks , and if the economy continues to tank…..?

      Now , concerning that horse whip ? Where is my riding crop anyways .

      Must be out in the barn next to my mule .

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    • It’s not competing it’s railroading! I am astounded you are defending them

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      • The above comment was posted against the wrong response. Sorry DOH!
        But just to speak plainly; Bezos is a robber baron; he don’t pay taxes anywhere but uses the countries infrastructures (people, roads, etc.). It’s not a question of morality, this should be made a criminal offence; it’s theft from the citizens of these countries and it’s only benefitting his organisation.

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  • Hello Diane and StevenDV;

    No fair, you guys are ganging up on me! Just kidding. But I’ll respond to each of you individually. However, there’s no direct “respond to this comment” link so I hope it appears reasonably close to Diane’s comment from January 4, 2012.

    Diane, I still find us in violent agreement concerning your statement, “There comes a day when lobbying for individual advancement, say of a company like [Amazon,] passes over the line of what is good for the entire country…”

    An excellent example of your point is the abhorrent tactic Amazon used to siphon business from local merchants by offering the $5 discount. I think I’ve been abundantly clear in earlier posts that I too believe there are lines that should not be crossed.
    My disagreement with you enters into the conversation when you repeat clichés like “what is good for the masses in CA is to reap revenue from a company who can certainly afford to be taxed, fairly, or as fairly as any corporation is taxed.”

    I’m still patiently waiting for the makers of that argument to coherently and intelligently explain how one determines the “fairness” of confiscating the wealth of one individual, or corporation, just to give it to a more politically friendly individual, or corporation (can you say big labor or Solyndra?)

    How much is “enough” for the government to take from us? Forty percent? Fifty percent? Seventy percent? All of our earnings above some arbitrary number? Why would I even consider working harder if I know the government is going to take seventy percent or more of my earnings?

    Diane, I’m not buying your attempt to “turn the tables on your argument” because I’m the last person on this planet who would presume to know what the majority believe. That’s for the majority to decide through the ballot box and through their local representation.

    But you’re right about one thing. I do in fact believe that if people can buy books cheaper through Amazon, they should have every right to do so. And those people trying to save a buck or two shouldn’t be made to feel guilty because some unyielding, outdated, and uncompetitive local vendor looses a buck or two (or even goes bankrupt) because of his or her intransigence. And who are YOU to decide whether or not corporate leaders are compensated beyond their worth? That decision belongs to the shareholders.

    There, I said it. I’m a capitalist.

    And do we really need to march down the Wal-Mart path again (metaphorically speaking)? If people don’t like (in your words) the “nit wit in India or the [Philippines]” why don’t they vote with their wallets and do business elsewhere? I’ll tell you why, because they like the lower prices that’s why. If people are truly driven by their convictions, they’d shop the more expensive local vendors to keep them in business. They’d send a donation to the federal government to help reduce the budget deficit. And they’d pay more money for U.S. based customer support because they don’t like talking to “nit wits.”

    No, people won’t do that because they’re hypocritical. They say they want all these altruistic socialist things but they’re not willing to pay the price to get them. Oh yes, they’re willing to force others to bear the burden in their quest for “shared sacrifice,” but who are you are anyone else to tell me how, when, why, and by how much I should sacrifice?

    Excuse me, but I’ll buy the less expensive brand please. And I don’t need the government’s hand in my pocket telling me I’m not paying my “fair share” as the clerk rings me up at the cash register.

    Joe Waynick, author
    Internet Bookselling Made Easy! How to Earn a Living Selling Used Books Online
    Bookseller Resources: http://www.InternetBookselling.com
    Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/joewaynick

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    • Hello StevenDV;

      Once again we’ll have to cordially agree to disagree.

      Specifically, I disagree with your insinuation that capitalists lace empathy. That’s absurd. The United Sates (clearly a capitalist nation) is the most charitable nation on earth. And of all Americans, conservatives are the most generous in the nation. I know Liberals like to claim to have a lock on charity, generosity, and empathy, but the raw facts just don’t support that fallacy.

      Can I honestly say that present-day capitalism is benefiting American public interests? Of course. Is it perfect? No. But would I throw out present-day capitalism for…socialism? Not even on my worst day.

      However, Steven, you make a few excellent points on which I really must agree. No, I’m not content with legislation dependent upon which special interest group has the deepest pockets. And I’m acutely aware of the dangers of money mixing with politics as I sit here and listen to our current president vow to raise a billion dollars to hold on to his job.

      Now that’s scary.

      And your interpretation of the Supreme Court decision regarding corporate personhood somehow bestows citizenship rights to corporate entities has me scratching my head. For the record, the Supreme Court extends certain rights to corporations as a matter of convenience to the state. After all, a corporation is made up of individuals. Why should the rights of those individuals be disregarded simply because they choose to act collectively? It’s convenient for the state to grant personhood status on corporations to collect taxes, enforce commerce laws, take court actions, and affect a number of other essential processes.

      There’s a certain practicality to it. But to lambaste democracy on the basis of that issue is a bit over the top.

      And to slog through your thought process by leaping from Nazism, to slavery, to torture clearly illustrates the utter lack of substantive argument to press your point in a coherent manner. I thought the discussion was about selling books, not waterboarding. Geez.

      I fully understand Steven that you have a political spin on your world view. But two things my father taught me was to never discuss politics and religion in polite company, so I think I’ll bow out of that thread.

      Joe Waynick, author
      Internet Bookselling Made Easy! How to Earn a Living Selling Used Books Online
      Bookseller Resources: http://www.InternetBookselling.com
      Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/joewaynick

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  • You know Joe, I’m really getting tired of this ‘class warfare’ argument. And I also find it hilarious that one thinks of the upper classes as poor picked on people, sob sob. If the rich were paying their FAIR share, there would be no argument from me. If you think Bezos is paying a fair share, I can sell you the Brooklyn bridge, really. The government is already taking chunks of income tax from regular citizens, and since corporations are now considered people, they should pay what the rest of us have to, in terms of income–which you well know they never do–the politicians, of both parties, are now bought and paid for by corps and therefore cut their responsibility in regards to fair taxes. One presidential candidate wants NO tax on corps. Right. That’s fair.

    “I’m still patiently waiting for the makers of that argument to coherently and intelligently explain how one determines the “fairness” of confiscating the wealth of one individual, or corporation, just to give it to a more politically friendly individual, or corporation (can you say big labor or Solyndra?)”
    One individual? Now Amazon truly is an ‘individual’? And even if you go that route–no one is singling out one corp–all of the people who hold the most wealth should pay fairly in terms of income tax. And what’s this about a more friendly politically friendly individual? The money from taxes goes to pay for essential needs of the population, and you know that too. You know, like roads, and schools and other non political necessities the population requires. Broad political statements like that are not what we are talking about here–I don’t care what party you adhere to, I don’t care what political philosophy you believe, but I do care that you and others understand that your way of thinking, your belief that corps should only care about what they can reap, what’s good for you and them, isn’t capitalism. That just plain selfish self centered robber baron thinking. And to believe otherwise doesn’t make anyone a socialist, a word you keep bandying around.

    I’m also very weary of your degradation of small businesses that fail, in your opinion, because of their own lack of abilities–back to survival of the fittest–a big Darwin fan, are you? You can do everything right–work your butt off, and something like say, an economic failure by gross fraud by the financial system can destroy all that work put in. And if you don’t understand how that would effect a small business, then we really are on vastly different pages. I know small booksellers who have moved with the times, do all that is right in terms of making a presence online, and still find after 10 years that they need to close their doors due to circumstances beyond their control, like some crazy people flying planes into our skyscrapers, which cancelled an essential book fair, which in turn made the store lose boatloads of money put into stock that would have been sold at the fair, and returns do not compensate the loss.

    This is not the governments fault, nor a corporation’s fault, just very bad timing and luck. But a juggernaut such as amazon can and does strike a fatal blow, and with so much glee.

    As for Walmart–I gave you the circle of circumstances of why everything being made in China and sold cheap is bad, I also said that it becomes unfortunately necessary for all of us to buy from cheaper places, if our salaries and jobs do not exist to sustain purchasing from higher retail outlets–and we can’t get better paying jobs from manufacturers if corps send all their work overseas. And why are they sent overseas–not because they don’t make enough money for all to reap, but because a FEW people at the top make more money than anyone needs, and if that is OK with you, that the general workforce takes a hit so someone like Trump can add a few more houses and younger wives to his holdings, then we aren’t just on different pages, we are on different planets.
    I used to work for a consulting firm that did NOTHING except find barely legal ways for CEOs and other high ranking corp people to grab most of the money from their underlings. I was just part time, and didn’t really understand what the hell this place did, but when the light dawned, it disgusted me, but I still didn’t understand the entire picture. I sure do now.

    I am a capitalist too–just not your kind of one. I won’t try to wipe out everything in my path so I can become the richest of the richest. That’s just plain greed.

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    • Diane;

      First of all, I truly appreciate your ability to discuss this topic without devolving into childish and utterly pointless name calling as demonstrated by a couple of other posters who don’t deserve the dignity of a response.

      I do think this topic is important and that differing opinions should be expressed so readers at large can weight the facts and decide the issue for themselves. As frustrating as it may be to disagree with someone, I don’t think trying to stifle someone else’s opinion simply because it’s different is helpful or even particularly intelligent, as others are trying to do with vitriolic statements.

      But to your point, or rather my point which you make the case for me very well. I asked for you to tell me how much tax is “fair” for a corporation or so-called rich person to pay and you couldn’t answer me. I’m not engaging in class warfare, those who whine about the “rich” not paying their “fair share” are waging class welfare quite nicely without my help.

      The fact is the top 10% of earners in this country pay 70% of the taxes. If they paid 100% of the tax burden, would that be fair? I don’t think so. What about the 50% of the population who pay no income taxes whatsoever, is that fair? Again, I have to say no. I consider both of the previous scenarios utterly ridiculous.

      However, I find it equally ridiculous to say corporations should pay no income tax at all. That would be just as bad as the half of the population who don’t pay income taxes. Why isn’t it as equally reprehensible when individuals pay zero income taxes as it is when corporations like General Electric pay zero income taxes? Is welfare for able bodied individuals more honorable than corporate welfare?

      Can we end the class warfare and at least agree that all citizens AND corporations should pay taxes to support our society? Or is that too right wing of a concept?

      I had to chuckle when you said taxes go toward paying for the “essential needs of the population.” That’s true enough to a certain extent, but this government confiscates over $1.5 trillion dollars annually in taxes, yet it spends more than $3 trillion annual and runs massive deficits to keep up the illusion of prosperity. Is it too much to ask the government to live within its means?

      Even if you confiscated every single asset possessed by the so-called rich, I mean every dollar, every mansion, every automobile, every airplane, and every square inch of property they own, you couldn’t fund the government for more than a year. From whom will the government steal from then after the so-called rich are impoverished? Will we start making the half of the population who currently don’t pay income taxes pay up then? With what?

      Is it really necessary to rehash the “Is Amazon an individual” argument? The Supreme Court already settled that one. If anyone still has a beef, that person should direct their ire toward the Justices.

      However, I would like to make one correction. I didn’t mean to imply that any small business that fails lack abilities. Yes, one can do everything “right” and still fail for reasons completely beyond the owner’s control. Your 911 example is a good one, and I’ll be the last one to defend some of Amazon’s business practices. But I know just as many small business owners who are equally vicious. Shall we eviscerate them as well?

      You said, “I am a capitalist too–just not your kind of one. I won’t try to wipe out everything in my path so I can become the richest of the richest. That’s just plain greed.”

      Where did that come from? Just because we have different perspectives you think I’m willing to wipe out everything in my path for money. You’ve either truly misread me if that’s what you believe, or you’ve chosen to ignore the arguments I’ve been making. But then again, ideology has a way of giving people tunnel vision.

      Joe Waynick, author
      Internet Bookselling Made Easy! How to Earn a Living Selling Used Books Online
      Bookseller Resources: http://www.InternetBookselling.com
      Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/joewaynick

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      • Joe, hello again! “Ideology has a way of giving people tunnel vision.” I couldn’t agree more, lol. Except you think I have ideology, and I think you do–and we differ in those ideologies.
        I’ve never before heard so much defense for the so called rich since the move to reinstate a tax Clinton imposed that didn’t create the downfall of the republic, or economy. I fear you get your statistics from one of those tunnels you were thinking about. Just like anything else, statistics can be and are manipulated to bolster any argument you want.

        I gave you an answer–to what the rich should pay-the amount of tax they payed before Clinton’s tax was rescinded–fair taxes. If I don’t throw around statistics like you, that’s because I don’t have them–I don’t memorize Jon Stewart’s numbers, or CNN’s numbers, or Rupert Murdock’s numbers. Since I hear them all, I can assure you, they are all different.

        50 per cent of the populace pay no income tax–since corporations are people–do they count? Because then, yeah–you probably are right–they don’t pay tax, therefore your statistic could be true. And again, giving you this statistic–why don’t so many pay income tax? Well, if you make minimum wage and earn less than a certain amount, you are living in poverty–and the government can’t take from people who have nothing. I know you are of the–no one is starving or needful in this country they should just get jobs etc etc and pay taxes. That’s a utopian dream that may be realized if corporations like amazon pay decent wages and not treat people as slave labor. But if they do that, other people who are spoiled won’t get their 30 per cent off, boo hoo. At one time as a country we applauded better working conditions, the middle class prospering, and things made in the USA.

        When you say “this government” do you mean government as in the president before this one, and the one before that one and the congress now, and before–meaning the ever present and changing dynamic that is called government? Or are you trying to single out a particular party and leader? Because fiscal responsibility isn’t one party or the other’s strong point. Ronald Reagan raised taxes–you do know that, right? Is he as satanic as those in control now, for raising taxes? Clinton raised taxes, and George W. Bush cut taxes and put this country to to debt that it will probably never recover from, and Obama isn’t doing much to help the situation. I think there is enough responsibility to go around.

        I really do find it insulting for you to equate those who are forced on welfare to corporations–even if the incredibly wrong Supreme Court claims they are people. The vast majority DO actually deserve help, and yes, there are many who rip off the system, believe me, living in NYC showed me the various ways in which that is accomplished. It also showed me the people who were desperate to get off welfare and work to create a better life for themselves. Your sweeping statements are so black and white, with no grays within–50 per cent who are paying no taxes are welfare recipients getting a free ride, I guess you believe, and all the rich are being bled to death.

        This entire subject has gone far from the initial amazon ethic discussion. And politics are not something I enjoy discussing, because of the animosity it creates between people. I don’t mind discussing the subject, but I don’t want to be told, or end up telling someone else what they think according to me. Life is too complex for easy ying yang answers. They ONLY way, strictly in my opinion, for the economy and this country to begin to prosper, is for all political parties and people to work together, like they used to before tunnel vision took over.

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        • Diane;

          Well we’ve finally agreed on something! “…you think I have ideology, and I think you do–and we differ in those ideologies.” What’s next—world peace? (smile)

          I’m not defending the rich. I’m defending fairness. True fairness, and not the class warfare type pushed by ideologues.

          If your answer to my question is that we reinstate the rates that existed under the Clinton administration, I can go along with that. So long as we also go back to the spending levels that existed under the Clinton administration. You see it was the balance between taxing and spending that fueled the prosperity of the Clinton years. I’m all for that.

          It saddens me that you don’t, by your own statements, command a grasp of the economics that influence and drive our economy. The statistics I cited come either from the CBO, IRS, or Statistical Abstract of the United States, all of which are funded by government agencies. Since you like big government, that should please you.

          The 50 percent does not include corporations, just individuals. If 50 percent of corporations didn’t pay income tax the government would collapse.

          The majority of the working population earns significantly more than minimum wage. Falling back on worn out talking points doesn’t help your argument. If the 50 percent of non-taxpaying Americans were below the poverty level I’d be on your team demanding that the government do something to correct such an obvious social imbalance.

          But I didn’t realize it was a utopian dream to expect people to take individual responsibility for themselves rather than rely on big brother for cradle to grave coddling. Do you really think it’s utopian to expect people to get a job, start a business, seek out private charities for assistance, or to rely on family in hard times? Really? Are we building a nation of marshmallows or Americans? Wait…I know the answer. Let’s start a campfire.

          When I say “this government” I really do mean (your words) “the ever present and changing dynamic that is called government?” Our government couldn’t have gotten this far out of control without the consent of both parties. And true reform will have to come from some source other than the existing political structure. My goodness, I think we just agreed on something else. World peace must really be just around the corner!

          Diane, it was never my intent to insult you or anyone else. But as a native of Newark, NJ there’s no way you’re going to convince me that the majority of welfare recipients can’t get off the dole if they truly wanted.

          Just two weeks ago, I offered a single 34 year old male welfare recipient, with three illegitimate children from three different mothers, a job in my new Pennsylvania warehouse earning $10 per hour with the promise to be raised to $12.50 within six months and to $15 within a year so long as he demonstrated a strong work ethic. He turned me down when I told him he had to pass a drug test before being hired.

          He did, however, offer to accept the job if I would pay him under the table so he could retain his $1,200 per month welfare check and if I waived the drug test.

          I passed, and so did he.

          The entitlement attitude is far more prevalent than you’re willing to admit. But I’ll say it loud and clear for all to hear. And I won’t apologize for that.

          For the third time, I’m going to agree with you again. This subject has strayed a bit (you think) but I can assure you that I feel no animosity toward you for expressing your opinion. If you want to respond again I’ll give you the last word. But to your “utopia” comment, if you want to really talk about utopia, just try getting “all political parties and people to work together, like they used to before tunnel vision took over.”

          Good luck.

          Joe Waynick, author
          Internet Bookselling Made Easy! How to Earn a Living Selling Used Books Online
          Bookseller Resources: http://www.InternetBookselling.com
          Follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/joewaynick

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    • That’s it, in a nutshell!
      Well said.
      We down here in the Antipodes are not immune to the Amazon virus, and I for one will support your argument all the way.
      In the early days of Walmart, we down here in NZ thought “only in America!!” How wrong we were. Along came our version of Walmart, “The Warehouse, where everyone gets a bargain” – and the slide into oblivion for small business became a reality. Online businesses such as Amazon have accelerated our demise. And if they are not paying their fair share of taxes, and we are, then our future is just that much bleaker.

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      • My comments have appeared in the wrong place on this blog. My comments were directed to Diane, NOT Joe, who I have to disagree with on some points.

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  • Bob, hello again! I can’t seem to answer under your comment-and yes as a host it might behoove me to figure out why, lol. I understand your point of view, and can’t say that I disagree exactly, but as the host, it is my job to have dialog, ha ha, so, every dog has his say, and I reply in kind. Just a quirk of mine! Thanks everyone, for weighing in. I think a good discussion at least keeps us informed of the world around us, even if we can’t exactly change it.

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