Earlier this week, I wanted to buy a book. So I went to Amazon.com, which is where I do most of my book shopping, and searched for the book. I was shocked to find the following message about the book I wanted to buy:
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A book was temporarily out of stock at Amazon! My God, what could be done? After all, I've been told repeatedly that Amazon is such a dangerous retailer that we need antitrust investigations into its practices. Here are ze Germans calling for an investigation in Amazon's evil ways. Paul Krugman warned that, at least when it comes to the selling of books, Amazon has "robber baron" levels of power. Here's a Financial Times columnist warning that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
Sometimes what looks like an abusive monopolist is an abusive monopolist http://t.co/KeFejsnU79
— John Gapper (@johngapper) May 9, 2014
All of these stories flashed through my mind as I contemplated my future, which now seemed doomed to be free of Interstellar: The Complete Screenplay with Selected Storyboards forever, or at least until Amazon deigned to stock it again. "What can I do?" I wailed, rending my garments. "It is not fair!"
But then an idea came to me. It was a longshot, I knew, but I thought to myself, "Welp, if you want this book, it's worth trying."
What if—and as soon as I thought this, I realized just how radical the notion was—but what if I tried to buy it from another retailer?
Groundbreaking stuff, I know. But I pulled up Barnes and Noble's website, searched for the book, and, WHOA. There it was!
Not only was it in stock, it was ready to ship within 24 hours and it was offered at a price point that was extremely competitive! "Truly we live in an age of wonders," I thought. "Our monopolists are easily broken by other competitors. Why, it's like they don't even have a real monopoly at all."
I'll turn off the sarcasm for a moment to make an honest plea: For the love of all that is holy, please stop using the threat of government intervention every time you're modestly inconvenienced by a retailer or find a retailer's practices modestly aggravating. Amazon's price war with Hachette is not evidence of an abusive monopolist trying to wreak havoc on the economy for its own benefit. Amazon isn't a monopoly. If you can't find a product at Amazon, take a few seconds and look around. The Internet is a huge and wonderful place. Competition proliferates! Bringing the force of government to bear against a retailer should be a desperate, last-ditch move, not the first thing that springs to mind. Amazon is an amazing company, and we really shouldn't risk ruining it because a few authors are upset that their books aren't being carried by Amazon in the manner that they feel Amazon should carry them.