Monopolies and Other Amazonian Strategies

I don’t know enough about the Amazon/Hachette dustup to express a meaningful opinion—not that such a lack stops others—but I keep remembering reading Wealth of Nations years ago and being struck by Adam Smith’s theory that monopolies are the goal of every participant of any competitive market. (Or something like that.) It shocked me at the time because I still thought free-market economies were God’s gift to the world, and that Adam Smith was some sort of prophet. (That was a different Smith.)

According to Smith’s 238-year-old wisdom, Amazon is doing what any business in its position tries to do: corner the market so eventually it will be able to charge unnatural prices. Not possible, you say? Now that Amazon has the brick-and-mortar bookstores on the ropes, it’s beginning to work on its mail/internet order competitors as well as the brick-and-mortar retail chains like Wal-Mart and Costco. Overreach, you say? That was Smith’s point: it’s what monopolies do. They expand until they destroy all their competitors or, more likely, until they collapse of their own internal inconsistencies.

I haven’t shopped at Amazon for over a year. In fact, I shop at local brick-and-mortar stores. Why? To have a relationship with the people I buy things from (for when they don’t work as advertised, for one thing). I know that’s naïve and costs a more than shopping at, but I’m a romantic.

Shopped in your local independent book store recently? They’re wonderful folks. And they love books almost as much as you.

Besides, I don’t need to have everything I want yesterday. Neither do you.