Magazine article Information Today

Amazon's Ever-Expanding Empire

Magazine article Information Today

Amazon's Ever-Expanding Empire

Article excerpt

Amazon is the largest e-retailer in the world today. On Black Friday 2011, Amazon saw 50% more visitors than any other online retailer. In May 2011, Amazon reported that sales of Kindle ebooks had outpaced print books. On Dec. 15, 2011, the company announced that for 3 consecutive weeks, customers purchased more than 1 million Kindle devices per week. Clearly, the company has become a book industry leader--and disrupter.

As part of an Amazon Prime membership, all of the new Kindles released this past fall began offering access to the new Kindle Owners' Lending Library and Prime Instant Video. Kindle owners can now choose from thousands of books to borrow for free, including more than 100 current and former New York Times best-sellers, as frequently as a book a month with no due dates.

But some of the company's recent moves--its book lending program, its sales tax policy, its program for self-published authors, and most recently, its new Price Check app--caused some angst and dissatisfaction with accusations of aggressive tactics and predatory practices. Amazon stepped on many toes, and now many publishers, retailers, librarians, and politicians have become alarmed and are pushing back.

Tim Carmody wrote in a Wired article last fall that "Amazon has swiftly become the most disruptive company in the media and technology industries. Its potential in this space is simply off the charts: bigger than Apple's, bigger than Google's, or Microsoft's. It's becoming a purer version of all three."

Amazon App Promo

Amazon's Price Check app, which is available for iPhone and Android devices, lets shoppers scan product bar codes in brick-and-mortar retail stores, take pictures of items, or conduct text searches to find the lowest prices and then share that information with Amazon. As an added incentive, on Dec. 10, 2011, Amazon gave customers using Price Check an additional 5% discount (up to $5) off the Amazon price on up to three qualifying items in toys, electronics, sporting goods, music, and DVDs. In other words, Amazon encouraged its customers to look in stores but then walk out and buy from Amazon. You can imagine the outrage that ensued. Brick-and-mortar retailers viewed this as an attack.

While books were not included in this promotion, independent booksellers felt particularly threatened. Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, wrote an open letter to Amazon's CEO Jeff Bezos outlining the association's disappointment in this latest move, calling it a "$5 bounty. …

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