Amazon: Good? Evil? Neither?

In a recent note on the Amazon site introducing new pricing on Kindles, Jeff Bezos wrote, “"There are two types of companies: those that work hard to charge customers more, and those that work hard to charge customers less. Both approaches can work. We are firmly in the second camp."

Do I believe that Amazon is working hard to charge customers less for the good of the customer? Not for a moment. Amazon is a publicly traded stock. Like any for-profit company, their goal is to make a profit. And as this article says: “Analysts quickly observed that Amazon is likely selling its new tablet for significantly below manufacturing cost. Another commenter notes that the tablet's browser gives Amazon an unfiltered window into how users shop and transact.”

Plus, if you buy a Kindle, the only place you can buy ebooks for that Kindle is Amazon (although that might not be true for books out of copyright).

Amazon is not only selling you the contents of the books and the way that you read them, but more and more, it is also the publisher, as you can read here.


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Actually, this is the reason I love amazon.com so very much. *shrug* I know that some folks are deeply suspicious of this and the Bezos haters are plentiful...but for me it's such a huge time-saver and I need to conserve time. I'm perfectly capable of ferreting out new nad exciting things that "profiling" wouldn't reveal...but as to the rest, I love it.
"Plus, if you buy a Kindle, the only place you can buy ebooks for that Kindle is Amazon..."

This isn't true. Kindles will read other formats, such as .PDF, .DOC, and .HTM/HTML. You can buy content for Kindles at other outlets such as Fictionwise.

That said, I hate monopolies, and to the extent I can, I refuse to patronise a company that is (or, as in the case of Amazon, is trying to become) a monopoly. Can't always avoid it, but I do when I can.
That's kind of a misleading question. No, you can't buy a Kindle ebook (a mobi file) from B&N. But on the other hand, you can't buy a B&N ebook (ePub file) from Amazon. I'm not sure about the Apple store because Apple devices can download apps to read either format, so it seems that you could buy either mobi or ePub from them, but I've never tried, so I don't know. You can also buy any ebook format from Smashwords and sideload it onto a Kindle, Nook, or whatever.

I am no fan of Amazon when it comes to their desire to develop a monopoly or their censorship practices (they've been know to delete books off people's Kindles w/o giving a refund when they deem a book "inappropriate.") However, I do think they're a useful tool for marketing and distribution. As consumers and booksellers, it's up to us to keep them in check. For example, I buy all my ebooks from Smashwords (a small, independent company) and distribute my POD books through Lightning Source rather than CreateSpace. I do occasionally buy through Amazon, but I try to support other retailers, especially small ones, when I can.