How Amazon Buys Seattle's Silence

Why isn't this literary city more outraged about the company's strong-arm tactics? Let us count the cash...

How Amazon Buys Seattle's Silence

Kelly O

 TROLLEY! Amazon

Would you shut up about the harm Amazon is doing to the business of books if the company offered to buy you a $3.7 million streetcar? How about if it also paid to operate that streetcar for you for the next 10 years? No? Okay, well what if Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also threw in $10 million for a sparkling new Museum of History & Industry that does honor to your city's heritage? Plus your very own urban cycle track, high-paying jobs for about 15,000 people, and plans for three new high-rises in a redeveloping urban neighborhood? What then?

And what if Amazon was responsible for 100,000 hotel stays every year in your city? What if it occupied 3.2 million square feet of local office space (with 4.7 million more square feet on its wish list)? What if the company was projected to more than double its highly paid local workforce of engineers and executives in the coming years? And what if, as Seattle's Office of Economic Development put it in a recent report, Bezos and Amazon were spending all of this cash, and making all of these plans, and ordering up all of these new buildings "during times of economic hardship, when the employment and taxes generated through construction helped soften the blow of two recessions"?


Over the years that Amazon has been relentlessly unsteadying the way books are created and sold, Seattle—aspiring UNESCO City of Literature, alleged booktopia—has largely looked at these questions and answered: Yes, we will shut up now, and thank you for the trolley!

Sure, there have been demonstrations at the annual Amazon shareholders' meetings (which are held in rented venues like the Seattle Art Museum and the Seattle Repertory Theatre). True, local booksellers have voiced outrage over what the company is doing to their business model. But on the whole, this city seems, consciously or unconsciously, to have absorbed the idea that Amazon's impressive local spending is a big part of what helped Seattle weather the Great Recession much better than other American cities and then emerge, this year, as the fastest-growing large city in the nation (according to a recent Seattle Times analysis of US Census data).

In keeping with this relative silence, there have been no WTO-style interventions into Amazon's plans for world domination. There is no "Books Now!" analogue to the "$15 Now!" demand that recently galvanized the city's voters and led, within a year, to Seattle making a historic jump toward a higher minimum wage. Instead, Seattle seems to be pretty much taking the Amazon bribe. We will snap up every last available ticket when David Sedaris comes to give a reading in the nearly 2,500-seat auditorium at Benaroya Hall. But when Amazon takes aim at Hachette, the publisher of Sedaris's books, you will not see 2,500 Seattleites marching on the burgeoning Amazon campus that's about a mile away from Benaroya. (Maybe they're slowed down by the fact that Sedaris could get gay-married in Washington State if he wanted to, thanks in part to the $2.5 million Bezos donated to support marriage equality?)

As Knute Berger wrote recently at the local website Crosscut, Seattle is used to this type of cognitive dissonance. We talk a good game about our values, but give a pass to "Boeing the extortionist, Starbucks the litigator, Microsoft the would-be monopolist." And now, Amazon. Berger gets at one aspect of the problem in the full-disclosure statement attached to his piece: "The writer's life is heavily entwined with all of the companies he disparages above. He often rides Boeing jets, patronized the Madison Park Starbucks, wrote this piece using Microsoft Word"—uh, me too—"and his new eBook, Roots of Tomorrow, is now available on Amazon."

But you don't have to be a Starbucks-sipping writer who can afford airfare and has a new eBook out to feel that in Seattle, it's hard to avoid somehow or other being in bed with Amazon. You just have to be a person who enjoys the benefits of public goods that are paid for with tax revenue. State law prohibits the sharing of Amazon's exact state and local tax payments, but it is legal to talk about tax payments by category of company, and in a report this year from the Downtown Seattle Association, it was revealed that online retailers in downtown Seattle—of which Amazon is presumably the largest, by many orders of magnitude—"delivered more than $670 million in taxable retail sales within the state of Washington in 2012." (Amazon, no surprise, did not respond to a request for information on its local economic impact.) The report also estimated Amazon's annual revenue at more than $60 billion in 2012, which means the company had plenty of resources with which to pay any other state and local taxes that would apply to its sprawling operations. Every time the city and state turn around and use that Amazon tax money—however much it might be—to our benefit, the bribe continues.

Seattleites can, and should, talk about how Amazon and its employees should be paying more in taxes (Bezos spent $100,000 to help defeat a 2010 statewide initiative that would have stabilized Washington's broken revenue system by levying an income tax on high earners). But in Seattle, at this point, we can't very easily get all the way out of bed with the company, much less strike back at Amazon over what it's doing to the book industry, without hurting our own cushy position as book-lovers who also like what Amazon has done for our local standard of living. That, ultimately, is the question Seattle now faces in this fight: Are we willing to actually suffer for our love of literature? recommended


Comments (68) RSS

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seems like a good deal, to me
Posted by alfresco on June 3, 2014 at 9:21 PM · Report this
Thanks for this, Eli.

For the past year I've been leading the effort to get Seattle designated a UNESCO City of Literature. I'm also an ex-Amazonian, having worked there twice, first in Customer Service from 1998-2000, then in Media Merchandising as an editor from 2004-2007. And I'm an author whose books are for sale on Amazon. My relationship with Amazon is so complicated and convoluted that the only way I could really do it justice would be to write a book about it, but I'm having too much fun writing my novel instead. I've attempted to write essays about my experiences at Amazon over the years, but reflecting on that period of my life depresses me horribly, and I've so far failed to capture those experiences in prose.

Since you mentioned the UNESCO Creative Cities bid (which I appreciate; thank you), I thought I'd try to shed some light on our organization's relationship (or lack thereof) with Amazon. I have stated in public that the Seattle City of Literature project will neither pursue nor accept funding from Amazon. UNESCO Creative City designation will create opportunities to collaborate with other cities to share, promote, and nurture the creation of literature internationally. Amazon has a presence in many of the cities that UNESCO has designated, and, as you know, their international reputation has suffered in recent years owing to issues related primarily to labor and taxes. The bid document we submitted to UNESCO a couple months ago inventoried Seattle's literary treasures--our independent bookstores, library system, ten-thousand years of First Peoples oral traditions, presses etc.--and didn't mention Amazon at all. We simply can't afford to take on the baggage that would come with their support, and they have demonstrated that their values as a business are often incompatible with the values of those who create and love art.
Posted by Ryan Boudinot on June 3, 2014 at 10:05 PM · Report this
Man, the attacks on Amazon are getting pretty lame.

Really guys, Amazon is a pretty decent employer, provides a great service, and has pumped a lot of money into the Seattle area.

Stop being such jealous hipster douchebags.

Do the "writers"(LOL) a the Sthwanger hate every person or company that is successful? If being poor and a failure some badge of pride for you people?
Posted by Just about finished wiping with the Stranger on June 3, 2014 at 10:07 PM · Report this
Amazon, and its support of ebooks has refilled in a huge increase in the number of authors able to get published. The old model favors aa small amount of wealthy author. The amazon model supports a large number of fairly paid author.

Why is the stranger siding with people like James Patterson instead of the people who would never have been published without ebooks?
Posted by highside on June 4, 2014 at 8:57 AM · Report this
I agree with highside's comment. Also, I heard a high school teacher on NPR talk about Kindle books vs. regular books. He said, "When I see one of my students sitting under a tree with their Kindle reading Silas Marner that's fine with me.
Posted by SteveShay on June 4, 2014 at 9:43 AM · Report this
If you're in the middleman business, making your living by skimming off a percentage, and a technology business finds a way to cut you out of the deal, you're fucked.
Posted by Westside forever on June 4, 2014 at 10:37 AM · Report this
"Over the years that Amazon has been relentlessly unsteadying the way books are created and sold..."

Which was something that was desperately needed.

There are plenty of readers not really into the whole bookstore scene, nor interested in picking sides between big publishers and big booksellers.
Posted by giffy on June 4, 2014 at 10:38 AM · Report this
a.m. stallings 8
This is certainly a complex situation, but I'm not sure anyone is letting Amazon off the hook.

I feel like someone tells me how much they hate Amazon pretty much daily -- whether it's for ruining the book publishing industry, or ruining Capitol Hill. (15 years ago, we all complained about how Microsoft was ruining traffic by dragging everyone to the East Side. Now we're all complaining about how Amazon is driving up Seattle rents by having their offices in-city.)

I will say that as an author, I sell more books thanks to Amazon. As a reader, I buy more books thanks to Amazon. (As a reader, I *also( got Elliot Bay Books more than I used to, thanks to its relocation.)

I'm all for questioning Amazon when they do gross things (the Hatchette dispute is a major public relations fail), and I suppose I have a skewed impression since I work in publishing/media and live in the Hill... but if this is "silence," then I'm confused about what noise would look like.
Posted by a.m. stallings http://arielmeadow.com on June 4, 2014 at 10:50 AM · Report this
Paul Constant 9
Oh, God. Some self-publishing blog must've picked this story up. Bring on the ranty comments about "gatekeepers" and millionaire authors!
Posted by Paul Constant http://https://twitter.com/paulconstant on June 4, 2014 at 10:51 AM · Report this
a.m. stallings 10
Wait, is Jen Graves' twitter now a self-publishing blog? I MISSED THE ANNOUNCEMENT!
Posted by a.m. stallings http://arielmeadow.com on June 4, 2014 at 10:59 AM · Report this

Amazon is the perfect business.

We need more of them.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on June 4, 2014 at 10:59 AM · Report this
i still don't understand why i'm supposed to side with the biggest book publisher in the world.

by that logic, am i supposed to side with the big, stupid record companies that fucked artists for years? was i supposed to defend them when in their lumbering uselessness, they failed to update their business model in a changing technological landscape? should iTunes start to strong-arm them for negotiation over retail prices and royalties, should i through my support behind Universal, EMI, Warner and Sony?

and why? just because they signed a bunch of artists?
Posted by deepconcentration on June 4, 2014 at 10:59 AM · Report this
This article is a preposterous stretch. Do you seriously think that anyone--ANYONE--in Seattle was considering mounting a "Books Now" march and then thought "Wait, Amazon did fund that streetcar, so maybe I won't"? Do you seriously think that a dispute between a publisher and a retailer is on the same level of social justice, warranting the same amount of grassroots outrage and civic action, as WTO and marriage equality?

The constant hit pieces on Amazon by The Stranger are getting very tiresome. By all means, report on what they are doing, but stop making them out to be some sort of supervillian.
Posted by seilo on June 4, 2014 at 11:01 AM · Report this
raindrop 14
The tax rate for any employee, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, or even Index Newspapers is and should remain determined by Federal and local tax laws, not according to how much you hate the company.
Posted by raindrop on June 4, 2014 at 11:03 AM · Report this
Gus 15
I am far more bothered by the working conditions in the fulfillment centers than the effect they have on bookstores or what they are doing to large publishers.

Posted by Gus on June 4, 2014 at 11:20 AM · Report this
The literary world has a tendency to be self-pitying, entrenched in a "I wish more people would put down their iPhones and read a poem" mentality (see Jonathon Franzen, et al). If media forms, or business models, such as independent book stores, are becoming less and less relevant to contemporary society, maybe it's time to look in the mirror and figure out how to become more relevant.
Posted by controlZED on June 4, 2014 at 11:22 AM · Report this
chinaski 17
@9 what, those people should be left out of your "conversation"?
Posted by chinaski on June 4, 2014 at 11:28 AM · Report this
Doctor Memory 18
Oh no, a local enormous multinational company is "unsteadying" the business model of another enormous multinational company!!!

This is the problem of any sane person how? Also, what #15 said: if you wanna give amazon grief, give it to them over the conditions in their fulfillment centers, not over the fact that -- quelle horror -- a distributor and a producer are having a spat about a wholesale price point. JK Rowling will be fine folks.
Posted by Doctor Memory http://blahg.blank.org on June 4, 2014 at 11:29 AM · Report this
My piece on Bezos' sparse voting record:
Posted by reifman on June 4, 2014 at 11:34 AM · Report this
ScandalMgr 20
Can't we all just get along?

It seems like a deal could be brokered by a local government (preferably not one drunk on the Amazon cash cow) which would be to the benefit of both local/regional bookstores and Amazon, Stipulations in such an agreement might include revenue sharing by Amazon in exchange for brick & mortar bookstore readings, among others, with enforceable, monetary punishments for either side acting in bad faith, etc...
Posted by ScandalMgr on June 4, 2014 at 11:36 AM · Report this
Book publishers are incredibly convoluted and made it incredibly difficult for writers to publish for years. Why are you backing them over a company that made it so much easier for writers to get their work out?
Posted by tigntink on June 4, 2014 at 11:41 AM · Report this
cressona 22
I have very mixed feelings about Amazon as a company and its business practices. Whenever they do what ostensibly are "bad things," I have to remind myself that it's not that they are evil; it's that they are an amoral corporation whose charter is to satisfy the shareholders.

I'm commenting here, though, to give Amazon credit for doing one "good thing," even if that "good thing" was motivated entirely by self-interest rather than good intentions. That is their decision to double down on their South Lake Union headquarters--in a transit-friendly, density-promoting location next to downtown.

Compare Amazon's decision to comparable companies. Microsoft threw a monkey wrench in this region's development and traffic patterns when they decided to build their corporate campus on a rabbit hutch out in far-flung Redmond. They've only recently begun to make partial amends by moving more of their corporate footprint to downtown Bellevue. And look at Apple building its retro-futuristic new campus in an auto-dependent part of Silicon Valley while so much of the Bay Area tech industry is revitalizing San Francisco, whether San Francisco likes it or not.
Posted by cressona on June 4, 2014 at 11:41 AM · Report this
Honestly, I think the "is-Amazon-bad-for-books" question is more or less still an open one. I buy that Amazon's tactics in the Hachette negotiations are skeezy and bad for Hachette authors, but I question whether they're necessarily symptomatic of a larger problem that should give Seattleites moral pause.

Labor and tax issues, now those strike much more of a chord. But really? Books? Amazon is so much bigger than books (and books remain, in their own way, so much bigger than Amazon).
Posted by dontknowwhyiputupwithyall on June 4, 2014 at 11:43 AM · Report this
If Malcolm Gladwell is against it, I'm a for it.
Posted by rubystu on June 4, 2014 at 11:49 AM · Report this
@9, hadn't seen any "ranty" comments, until yours. Just sane, rational questions and observations.

In fact, yours was the first comment that was more of an attack on people who might dare to disagree with the article than with the substance of the article itself.

It really doesn't inspire confidence in your critical thinking.
Posted by LJM on June 4, 2014 at 11:49 AM · Report this
amazon also makes it very easy for anyone to sell almost anything (new or used) to anywhere in the country. surely this has to be good for opening economic doors and creating some income for a wide variety of people. it also keeps lots of items out of the trash and re-uses old items.

im also wondering how of the revenue at amazon has anything to do with books any more. with streaming content, retail goods, and AWS, books cant be that important to their future
Posted by Cassette tape fan on June 4, 2014 at 11:56 AM · Report this
theophrastus 27
and for all that the city would let Uber, Bezos pet project, to have anything they wanted over the ossified established system of taxis, towncars, and, limos, yes? but oddly enough, they didn't... hnh.

amazon is a big-ass employer locally (for now... but wait until they get all the fulfillment robots in place) so, like Boeing, for example, it's generally eeeevil, and what it wants it tends to get [sad-shrug]
Posted by theophrastus on June 4, 2014 at 11:58 AM · Report this
pg13 28
I'm getting confused about the narrative here...

Seems like it wasn't too long ago that Amazon was being taken to task for NOT spending money locally--that they weren't sponsoring enough things, that they were sitting in their corporate towers and hoarding all of their gold...like Smaug. NOW, we're complaining that they're busy spending that gold buying our silence...

And it seems like the previous narrative that Amazon was ruining the book business because how could a brick and mortar/mom and pop book store compete with a behemoth that sells every book at the lowest price with cheap and fast delivery...and now we're complaining that they've denying people access to some books by some very popular authors. Wouldn't that be a great thing to happen for book stores? ("Hey! We've got the Sedaris and Rowling books that you can't find from Amazon!" sure seems like it'd be a good lure to get people into a store.)

And finally, the idea that a streetcar or a nicer museum is what quells a volcano of anger against Amazon. I don't sense a lot of anger from people who like the convenience that Amazon provides--shop whenever you want for nearly whatever you want and have whatever you choose delivered to your front door in a couple of days, if not less. We've gotten used to that convenience--so anger only bubbles up when an Amazon Prime purchase takes three days to arrive rather than two, or when a micro-cost update pushes the price of the thing you were thinking about buying up a dollar rather than down six cents.

Yes, Amazon should have good working conditions for its employees. That's a narrative worth pushing. (Of course, one wonders if "not shopping Amazon" is the way to make certain that happens...)
Posted by pg13 on June 4, 2014 at 12:03 PM · Report this
@18: Pedantic note, since we're talking about a French publisher: it's "quelle horreur". :)

And agreed -- so far, I haven't seen anything about Amazon's treatment of Hachette that seems notably different from other (admittedly rough) negotiation tactics used by many companies in the past -- publishers included. It's not how I'd run a business, but that's probably why I'm not running a business.

Beyond the "won't somebody think of the children … I mean, books" argument, I can't see why anybody would side with one behemoth over another in this dispute, based on the limited information I've seen so far.
Posted by oubliette on June 4, 2014 at 12:09 PM · Report this
sikandro 30
Eli, when I'm deciding whether or not to publicly criticize Amazon, the question of their contribution to the city's and economy isn't the primary thing on my mind. The primary thing on my mind is the fact that friends and family work there, many of them young college graduates who have plenty of student loans to pay off and are making good money at Amazon.

I think (in response to some of the comments) that it's a mistake to ask as if we're primarily concerned with Hachette in the current dispute. There are plenty of situations in which a massive publisher would be the bad guy, and they still can be here. The salient point is that if Amazon negotiates to sell Hachette's books at a massively reduced price, that gives them a significant advantage over small or independent bookstores who don't have the same negotiating power as Amazon. It's not even as much about consumers as it is about those smaller businesses.
Posted by sikandro on June 4, 2014 at 12:16 PM · Report this
sikandro 31
Also that should read "city's services and economy" and "act as if." I'm terrible.
Posted by sikandro on June 4, 2014 at 12:22 PM · Report this
Cascadian 32
I don't think there's a simple answer here. I do like the suggestion made earlier for Amazon to partner with local bookstores for mutual advantage. I'd love to be able to order online with my local bookstore getting a cut of the sale, in exchange for whatever marketing deal could be made. The big problem, of course, is that Amazon is big enough that any negotiation it has with local booksellers is likely to be exploitative. The role of government is to figure out how to regulate the marketplace so that everyone from writers to publishers to retailers gets their due. Maybe what's needed is an anti-trust action that prescribes a remedy whereby Amazon cuts in local retailers, authors, and publishers for a fair cut. That would be worth it even if it raised the costs of books somewhat.
Posted by Cascadian on June 4, 2014 at 12:23 PM · Report this
Seattle has the luxury of worrying about the success of multiple fine book store. What percentage of the population of the US ever lived within 10 miles of a "indendent" bookstore where they could find, buy or order any book they wanted. Since 1996 anyone with internet does.

The book business as far a I can tell has always been hard, still is.

Posted by TheStreets on June 4, 2014 at 12:27 PM · Report this
@32. How much money should amazon share with independent book stores in Alabama who only carry books by Jefferson Davis and Rush Limbaugh. Or do you mean cool local stores in seattle that are committed to "literary" pursuits.
Posted by TheStreets on June 4, 2014 at 12:34 PM · Report this
* after all the articles berating amazon for not donating to local (but completely mainstream) art organizations in seattle like MS or Boeing, the claim that amazon has bought the city is rich.

** no mention of Bezos' $1M contribution to marriage equality prop.

Having a sugar daddy is complicated isn't it Goldilocks.
Posted by TheStreets on June 4, 2014 at 12:40 PM · Report this
@9: That is the most juvenile, reactionary comment on this post. Obviously, anyone who dares to disagree with your hate for Amazon is a shill and an apologist, and will be dismissed out of hand.

Way to promote healthy, thoughtful discussion.

Posted by bigyaz on June 4, 2014 at 12:40 PM · Report this
"That, ultimately, is the question Seattle now faces in this fight: Are we willing to actually suffer for our love of literature?"

Where's literature going?

Did you mean to say "our love of bound, paper books and Big 5 publisher-set pricing?"

And @9--
What a snobby fucking comment. True colors from the advertiser-published weekly scribbler.
Posted by F9 on June 4, 2014 at 12:53 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 38
Book publishers are incredibly convoluted and made it incredibly difficult for writers to publish for years. Why are you backing them over a company that made it so much easier for writers to get their work out?

It's shit like this that makes me think maybe Amazon isn't completely disinterested in public relations. That, even if Amazon won't respond to press inquiries, it will send commenters to blogs to flog the party line.

I need to see some real data that Amazon's self-publishing model benefits more than a trivial number of people. Yes, the self-publishing model puts your writing "out there", but it doesn't guarantee that anyone is going to hear about it, is going to give a shit, is going to review the book, is going to buy it. It doesn't guarantee any kind of income at all. At least the traditional publishing model gives you an advance *regardless if your book sells*.

That's the benefit to the traditional publishing model for authors. You get a little payment upfront, and the publisher assumes all the risk. The publisher also pays for editing, book cover design, ads, advanced reader copies, good press, and placement on bookstore shelves. Think you can sell your book without any of that? Good fucking luck. You'll need it.
Posted by keshmeshi on June 4, 2014 at 12:53 PM · Report this

The "traditional publishing model" only benefits a trivial number of people.

And you can only be a successful band if you get on a major label. Selling out is your only option.
Posted by F9 on June 4, 2014 at 12:58 PM · Report this
You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me 40
How Amazon Buys Seattle's Silence
Not Biting The Hand That Feeds You
Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me on June 4, 2014 at 1:05 PM · Report this
Perhaps they engage in abusive labor practices at their warehouses, but I think it's pretty hard to argue that Amazon's existence is a bad thing. The website makes it easier to shop for pretty much everything.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on June 4, 2014 at 1:08 PM · Report this
Simac 42
Amazon is not bad for books. Amazon has been good for books (like highside said): more people are published, more people have access to more books, and books are cheaper.

Traditional publishers did as much to destroy the book market themselves, as well. Before the rise of Amazon, the Big Five major publishers in New York had stopped cultivating new authors and carefully curating annual line-ups, and they were churning out tons of pabulum that people weren't interested in buying. I mean, look over the sale table at Barnes and Noble even today, and see what all crap is out there passing for "books."

Looking for easy ways to save money and cut corners, publishers stopped offering competent in-house editing and copyediting, outsourcing this or requiring manuscripts that they considered to be edited and copyedited already. Editors started leaving publishers en masse to work as agents instead, getting their cuts of manuscripts they discovered (and edited) when sold to a publisher. There is huge turnover in editors at all publishing houses because people start young, learn the ropes, and then exit to make money elsewhere, leaving traditional publishers in an endless cycle of brain drain. None of that has anything to do with Amazon; it's self-inflicted injury.

Consider also the not-insignificant contribution Amazon has made to the publication of TRANSLATED fiction in the United States. The Big Five have traditionally steered clear of translations because, frankly, they didn't (and don't) have the in-house expertise to evaluate books to buy rights on and they are generally clueless how to nurture translations into publication-ready form. They are also afraid to offer the American public literature that doesn't conform to Americans' white-bread expectations of what a book should be like. Amazon is the largest publisher of translated works in English now, and readers have access to a much bigger range of literature from many other countries than ever before.

The demise of small booksellers has come with numerous trade-offs, but it's less Amazon that's responsible for their demise than the onward march of technology, which would have rendered small booksellers obsolete one way or another. Meanwhile, lots of good has come from the electronifiation of books: lower prices, easier and broader access to books, more authors getting published, and more translations being published.
Posted by Simac on June 4, 2014 at 1:12 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 43

Serious question. Have you seen the caliber of author that self-publishes on Amazon?
Posted by keshmeshi on June 4, 2014 at 1:27 PM · Report this
The $$$$ Amazon spends on the local economy via jobs/construction is vastly more important than the potential losses bookstores/publishers/writers may incur. Sorry that your $800 studio is now $1500, but don't try to feed me some bullsh that adding thousands of middle income wages to Seattle is a travesty and we should shame Amazon. Does the stranger really think that a majority of us would like SLU to go back to what it was 10 years ago? What was it? A bunch of vacant industrial buildings, yes now its overpriced for some, but at least its getting used and those that live there are putting their $$ locally not out of the city/state.
Posted by g2000 on June 4, 2014 at 1:30 PM · Report this
Paul Constant said it all in his comment, took the words out of my mouth again.
Posted by michael bell on June 4, 2014 at 1:40 PM · Report this
The internet was the death of the printed book. Why would I buy from a bookstore or even AMAZON if I can just go download a PDF copy of whatever I want for free.
Posted by devilia on June 4, 2014 at 2:29 PM · Report this
Is this a DAILY thing for The Stranger now?!?
Posted by BoulderDrop on June 4, 2014 at 2:38 PM · Report this

150 Kindle Direct Publishing authors each sold more than 100,000 copies of their books in 2013. Top sellers this year include “Hopeless” by Colleen Hoover and “Wait for Me” by Elisabeth Naughton. The best-selling Kindle Direct Publishing author during the holiday season was H.M. Ward.

Hugh Howey's Amazon Self-Published sci-fi series "Wool" has been sold to 20th Century Fox for film rights.

Posted by F9 on June 4, 2014 at 2:40 PM · Report this
Here's the wonderful contribution of bestseller literature from Hachette.

Posted by F9 on June 4, 2014 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Man what happened here? I stop reading SLOG for a couple of months and now you're comparing a multi-billion dollar company (Hachette) to the 15 NOW campaign!?
Posted by wtfwtfwtf on June 4, 2014 at 4:43 PM · Report this
Simac 51
@43: The quality ranges, obviously. You have T.R. Ragans on one end, and you have Joe Schmoes on the other end. The caliber of publication isn't really the point, however. The point is that the Big Five publishers, which are ironically fairly provincial in their New York-centric outlooks on literature, no longer act as the gatekeepers keeping authors and readers at arm's length from one another. Over time, self-published authors will professionalize and learn what they need to do with their manuscripts before they put them out for them to sell well.

Another thing, though, is that Americans have been trained to be extremely sensitive to writing that doesn't conform to 1950s ideals of editorial practice. People go ballistic over dangled participial phrases and misspellings and incorrectly placed commas even if the meaning is perfectly clear to someone with a brain. As readers we collectively lack any hardiness or fortitude when books don't hold our hands though them. This is in some ways a uniquely American phenomenon, one that other societies suffer from less. So, while authors learn how to self-publish more effectively, we as readers will also need to adapt to texts that are in various states (if we want to read such fare). No one is forcing anyone to consume such material, but it's good that it's increasingly out there.
Posted by Simac on June 4, 2014 at 5:04 PM · Report this
Sorry, Stranger. I don't see why the city (or anyone, for that matter) should get outraged that a given business model has become obsoleted.

As much as I enjoy browsing through used bookstores on the odd occasion, just seeing if anything looks interesting, I don't do that very often. 95% of the time, I already know what I want, and a noticeable portion of the time, the local bookstores don't carry it. Amazon nearly always does, and it's never for a higher price. It's always the same price, or less, and I have the option to keep paper completely out of the picture, which is fantastic.

So, please, dear Stranger, why should I be outraged by a situation where I benefit 100% of the time? Why should I be outraged by the opportunity to more conveniently pay less money for the same goods in an arguably potentially more environmentally friendly format? Who are you trying to garner support for, here? Because it certainly isn't consumers.
Posted by King Radical on June 4, 2014 at 5:37 PM · Report this
What a bunch of tools. You're defending the Walmart of the internet. I hope your fair city is cursed with Walmarts, and no local businesses, so you can lay in the bed you made.
Posted by Twinkie defense on June 4, 2014 at 6:01 PM · Report this
Why don't you ask similar questions about sports franchises, which do not even provide half the thing you mentioned that Amazon is providing the city of Seattle but takes resources, tax money etc.
Posted by whateverstranger on June 4, 2014 at 6:32 PM · Report this
Doctor Memory 55
@29: oops. Sadly that's about par for me with the French tongue, a language that is musically beautiful only when spoken by other people. :)
Posted by Doctor Memory http://blahg.blank.org on June 4, 2014 at 8:40 PM · Report this
@52 - Last I checked, Amazon *is* a local business- created right here in Seattle, employs thousands downtown. Or did you mean that we're only supposed to support local businesses that aren't successful? What's the threshold for when a local business becomes too big for me to support any more? $1 million in revenue? $5? 3 retail locations? 10?
Posted by PresN on June 4, 2014 at 8:54 PM · Report this
This article is about as unmeasured as the frequently heard "Starbucks put all the independent coffee shops out of business". No, there were only a few places to get espresso in Seattle before Starbucks and vast stretches of the country where decent coffee was hard to find. There is plenty to dislike about Starbucks and Amazon. There is also a lot to like. Bookshops have suffered from the online book trade. Publishers, maybe. But authors and buyers suffering from Amazon's existence is a hard thing to prove. Eli Sanders doesn't even try. A measured article would have been more welcome. Why should we favor a nasty business elsewhere over the one in our back yard in a business fight? While my sympathy may be with the romance of publishers in this case the largely unasked question is why we are not separating content from distribution in every area of business. Cable companies shouldn't be in content creation - they should be a utility. Perhaps Amazon shouldn't be in publishing. These are regulatory questions no one is asking.
Posted by David Schraer on June 4, 2014 at 9:38 PM · Report this
Oh hey another pointless article from the Stranger bitching about Amazon. How much would it take for the Stranger to shut up with this malarkey? Let the other real news orgs do some real investigative journalism on the various Amazon angles, because your pitiless operation is clearly not up to the task. Some real news orgs get a reporter into an Amazon warehouse to report, you send a hapless hatchet man to South Lake Union Whole Foods to cold approach random Amazon employees.

Now the city residents should be up in arms about Amazon delivering them books and goods for less? Hey, guess what, most people in the city don't work for bookstores, so they get to benefit from the competitive pricing tactics of Amazon and other online competitors, and then they can spend that money they saved on local businesses, the type that advertise in the Stranger, helping to make a more economically vibrant city and helping to pay Eli's salary.

Eli and the rest of the Stranger staff can go to B&N's store downtown or any other bookstore and pay list price for books all he wants, and then he can feel good that he's funding those charitable competitors and publishing companies.

Meanwhile, Dan Savage will presumably continue to sell his books, including Kindle editions, on Amazon.
Posted by madcap on June 5, 2014 at 5:19 AM · Report this
If it wasn't amazon IT WOULD JUST BE SOME OTHER COMPANY. The death of the book industry is a result of the digital age we live in. We should be thankful that Amazon is investing heavily in the city of Seattle in a progressive way (encouraging density, providing high paying jobs, paying for public amenities) rather than contributing to sprawl and car culture the way that almost every other tech company does.
Posted by db206 on June 5, 2014 at 3:23 PM · Report this
@53 Amazon is nothing like Walmart. Walmart is notorious for treating their employees like garbage and selling shitty products. Amazon pays fair wages and sells quality products. Really the only similarity is that they're both large companies but by that same logic you could compare ANY large company to Walmart.
Posted by db206 on June 5, 2014 at 3:36 PM · Report this
Amazon has merely monetized what Google was going to make an eventuality anyway. E-books expand the availability of literature to more people and with less effort; libraries would be all about it, if not for the DRM and other hidden costs, and they still somewhat are despite that. And besides, books kill trees. How can Seattle say no to trees? It's much more a crunchy eco-green city than it is a dusty crackly paper city.
Posted by K on June 5, 2014 at 4:29 PM · Report this
Posted by lawdawg on June 5, 2014 at 6:24 PM · Report this
kellyllek 63
amazon sucks. work there a few years it will change your opinion of the company!
Posted by kellyllek http://www.www.com on June 6, 2014 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Is this a serious article because I keep laughing when I read it. Amazon brings jobs, tax revenue, prosperity and is willing to subsidize the local infrastructure to help appease its neighbors but somehow that is a bad thing because books sellers are madder then an owner of a Blockbuster store. The telegraph really screwed one the pony express riders but the will always have a legendary place in history .
Posted by Richard Fits on June 7, 2014 at 2:00 PM · Report this
And Seattle has made it onto some " coolest cities", or "best cities for progressives" lists? Pfft!
Posted by 5th Columnist on June 9, 2014 at 3:56 PM · Report this
Looks like the Amazon troll army are out in full force again. Ruining Seattle faster than a plague.
Posted by AmznGtfo on June 10, 2014 at 5:04 AM · Report this
This article gives more reasons to be pro-Amazon than anti -- they helped the local economy not only survive, but thrive during/after the recession; they created 15,000 high-paying jobs; helped urban development; and the CEO actively supports marriage equality? Should Seattle really feel guilty about those things?

Only the very last paragraph offers some specific examples of negative things Bezos has done, while the rest of the article just vaguely suggests that the company is somehow hurting Seattle's book culture. Is Seattle's bid for the UNESCO City of Literature title endangered by Amazon's presence? Have lots of independent bookstores (or any other stores, since, as someone pointed out above, Amazon doesn't just sell books) shut down since Amazon moved in?
Posted by Neri on July 27, 2014 at 4:52 PM · Report this
@61: ebooks might save paper, but think about how we get the materials to build e-readers, not to mention all the electricity to power them, as well as the computers, smartphones, and other devices we can use to access Kindle or other book apps. How much smaller of a carbon footprint are we really making with ebooks vs. tree-books?

(I honestly don't know the answer myself; I'm just saying we can't paint ebooks as some perfect eco-friendly replacement for paper books)
Posted by Neri on July 27, 2014 at 5:16 PM · Report this

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