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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Think of Amazon as Sears

The Amazon Washington Post asked the other day, "Why is Trump more worried about coal miners than department store employees?"

The irony is Amazon -- the Sugar Daddy of the financial failure known as the Washington Post -- is why retailers are closing their doors.

Now for some time, I was conflicted over this. I use Amazon to peddle my books and yet I disagree with the politics of Jeff Bezos.

But if we are going to get upset because Kat Von D disqualified a beauty contest winner over a pro-Trump Instagram post, then I should not disqualify Amazon over Jeff Bezos's anti-Trump screeds in his Washington Post.

Nothing personal. Just business. He enables me to spread the truth to my readers more than I enable him to make money.

Let us be real about what Amazon is. It is the Sears of 21st century, doing the same thing Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck did when they opened their mail order warehouse in Chicago in 1886.

Like Bezos they used modern technology to bring goods to the hinterlands.

Sears customers went to the equivalent of the online site (called a mail-order catalog), emailed them back (snail-mailed an order with a money order) and waited for FedEx to deliver the package (Post Office via that new invention, the transcontinental railroad).

You could buy just about anything by mail order, including a house (some assembly required).

For 39 years, Sears and Roebuck operated this way until they re-invented the bricks-and-mortar store beginning in 1925. And that is the Sears you see today. And it is dying, taking its partner Kmart with it.

Oh well.

But Michael Walsh does not like the disappearance of Sears and the rise of Amazon. In a post at PJ Media, he made the same anti-Amazon argument that unions and liberals made against Walmart.:
As readers of PJ Media's daily feature, Hot Mic, are aware, I'm not a big fan of Amazon. In the guise of ease, efficiency and allegedly low prices, it's crushing the life out of the retail sector in the United States, demolishing bookstores, big-box stores, department stores, grocery stores, record stores, and even smaller retail outlets, putting small businessmen, struggling authors and garage bands out of business. In so doing, it's also killing job prospects for entry-level workers who might actually not want to work at McDonald's.
In their place, it offers you Alexa, your very own electronic monitor and spy, sleeping right next to you on the nightstand in the innocuous guise of your smart phone or your tablet, monitoring your porn searches while it pretends to buy you Doris Kearns Goodwin's latest book or a tin of Acai berry powder.
In publishing, where I earn part of my living, it forces authors to compete with themselves, offering marked-down used versions of works still in print, thus depriving us of royalty payments. At a time when advances -- except to celebrities famous for something other than their literary skills -- are a tenth of what they used to be, working writers must now depend on quickly earning out the initial advance (based on -- you guessed it -- royalties) and then getting subsequent paychecks at six-month intervals for as long as the book continues to sell new copies.
Good point, but no.

Amazon enables writers like me to compete with Doris Kearns Goodwin. I would not be published without Amazon. At 63, I have neither the time nor patience to work with an agent, and maybe I am doing it all wrong but it is my life.

Walsh can make money on Kindle, maybe more than print.

He doesn't have to compete with himself. Instead he should use his previous work to sell his new stuff. Frankly, he whines too much.

And the checks are deposited monthly on the 29th, not in six-month intervals. I'm selling books in Australia, and Canada, and England. Is that cool or what?

Amazon is enabling voices to be heard that the book industry would silence. Simon and Schuster reneged on a book deal with Milo Yiannopoulos. A generation earlier, that would be the last you would hear from him.

But Amazon enabled Milo Yiannopoulos to self-publish, create a best-seller, and make far more than Simon and Schuster would pay him.

And if Milo Yiannopoulos is willing to work with Jeff Bezos, who am I to say no?

It is not just books. Amazon is enabling small businessmen of all types to reach a wider market across product lines. There is no need to parcel out shelf space like you would in a store because there really isn't shelf space.

As for killing the first jobs for trainees, who said they could not go to work at an Amazon warehouse?

Or themselves? The biggest mistake I made when I started blogging in 2005 was not quitting my job and diving right in.

Believe in yourself, kids. Become a garage door band -- that is start your own business, in a garage if necessary. Worked for Steve Jobs, didn't it?

Walsh ended his piece:
Enjoy your "savings" and "convenience," folks. After all, you're paying for it -- boy, are you ever.
Oh, we will enjoy our savings and convenience. Just like we did the Polaroid camera. Then the selfie.

Life changes. Adapt. Or grumble.

Sears could have been Amazon. It decided not to.

Bezos took the gamble and reaps the reward for his risk.

I admire that.

Even if his politics are all wrong -- totally.

Now to get back to writing my next book about me slaying the dinosaur media. In the meantime, I offer these:

Caution: Readers occasionally may laugh out loud at the media as they read this account of Trump's election.

It is available on Kindle, and in paperback.

Caution: Readers occasionally may laugh out loud at the media as they read this account of Trump's nomination.

It is available on Kindle, and in paperback.

Autographed copies of both books are available by writing me at

Please follow me on Twitter.

Friend me on Facebook.


  1. Computer and robot repair are the future. And the medical industry. That's where the big money is. - Elric

  2. Nice post. But as Peter Thiel advises young start-up wannabes, the best business model is a monopoly. I'm sure Lord B agrees. Someday Jeff may find you objectionable for some reason, then...

  3. Amazon lets authors self-publish. Cuts out the book publishers who won't pick up those writers. Sarah Hoyt (night-shift on Instapundit) likes that.

  4. Spot on. Hate his politics. Admire his guts. And I will not/won't drive 40 miles to buy what I need if it can be delivered to my door.

    1. Yeah.. not to mention that NO mere store can offer such vast selection of products.

      And, yet, I find myself driving to Walmart & Home Depot to avoid becoming dependent on Amazon.

  5. Eddie Lampert did more to kill Sears than Jeff Bezos ever did. Maybe eddie was a cracker jack hedge fund operator but it did not make him a retailer. And he still did not learn. I did. I dumped my Sears stock a long time ago, but, it was a costly lesson.

  6. I do a lot of WalMart online shopping. Big selection good prices & free shipping over $35 or pick it up at the store.

    1. Me too with Walmart. But I buy books from Alibris. I'm retired and at the rate my wife and I go through books (we don't ebook) we look for price which is used books. Those books are donated to our local library which puts them on the shelves or sells them at their bi-annual book sales which funds the genealogy center. I bought Don's book on Alibris too.

    2. Books? I haven't read a book since I bought a Kindle Fire when they first came out. I get some pretty good novels for 2 bucks.

  7. I've published 4 books (6 if you count some powerpoint decks I use in workshops).

    One was through a conventional publisher (Achieving Lean Changeover-CRC PRess) They did everything they were supposed to and treated me well. No complaints whatever.

    The rest, like Packaging Machinery Handbook, were through Amazon's Create Space.

    There is no way I will ever publish through a publisher again.

    1) Better royalties
    2) Daily sales report
    3) Royalties paid monthly
    4) Speed to market (about 3 days from submitting the book in final form to being available for sale on Amazon
    5) More flexibility on marketing. CRC won't let me sell the book direct. Amazon is happy for ALL sales.

    Bezos has always struck me as a fairly liberal (A/K/A libertarian) kind of guy. It doesn't show in WaPo, though.

    On the other hand, he does not let politics get in the way of business. For example, publishing Milo not censoring him.

    I love publishing through Amazon.

    I love Amazon in general. Especially Prime.

    John Henry

  8. Anonymous,

    Do not buy Don's books on Alibris. If you like this blog, pay full price so he at least makes a dollar or two.

    Show him some love.

    I was not sure if I would like his book but I felt obligated to buy it whether or no. All these years of enlightening me with his blogging, it was the least I could do.

    As it was, I loved the book. Only one error of fact (about Merle Travis.) and no errors of opinion.

    I am happy to support Don, you should be too.

    John Henry.

    1. I bought a new copy on Alibris from a bookstore when it was first published. And I buy new books from bookstores in the UK that cannot be purchased in the US. All through Alibris. Are you against independent booksellers?

  9. Amazon didn't kill Sears, Sears did. Crappy management, cumbersome bureaucracy, and lack of vision.

    1. Dittom Dennis.

      But the bigger question is why is Sears not Amazon?

      As Don says, they were already of the Amazon of their time.

      Ditto Blockbuster video. Remember them? Why are then not NetFlix or at least RedBox?

      Or the US automakers. Why are they not Toyota? Ford used to be, up to 1930 or so. Toyota's revolutionary Toyota Production System (TPM) or Lean Manufacturing, came directly out of Henry Ford's 1923 autobiography and Toyota will be the first to tell you.

      That book was out of print in English for 75 years. It has never been out of print in Japanese.

      All of these companies let other companies take away their business.

      I could do a long disquisition about reasons but you pretty well nailed it:

      "Crappy management, cumbersome bureaucracy, and lack of vision."

      John Henry

    2. Yep, ya'll have it right. That's what it boils down to.

    3. Most CEOs are way over paid, and after they ruin a company, someone else always hires them.

  10. Walmart did to Sears what Sears did to the General Store.

    Then Amazon Did to Sears what Sears had done.

    Now Walmart is giving Amazon a run for the money - and clicks.

    And I can shop for tools, clothes, books, vitamins, etc without having to get dressed and find the car keys.

  11. It seems to me that what is killing big chain stores is not so much the Internet or Amazon, but "Just In Time Inventory" (meaning it is NOT in stock when I want it), HQ-driven Inventory, pushing their own customers to the internet instead of to the store, and ultimately really bad customer service reflected in going from a dedicated free gift wrap department to not even having shirt boxes in the store.
    Going from "we can special order it for you" to "we dunno what will be on the truck, comes ever Tuesday. You just have to come back then and see."

  12. If you're going to think of the Washington Post as the Sears catalog, remember to put the string through the corner.

    It hangs better that way.

  13. I mostly love Amazon, but I would like to see them hit hard on carrying counterfeit goods, discriminatory pricing, and price fixing of digital video rentals with the studios and Red Box.

  14. Got to say I love Amazon Prime. Driving into town is expensive. Can't wait for the drones. And the huge blimps.

  15. I subscribe to Amazon Prime both for the videos and for the free shipping privileges even though I detest Jeff Bezos' politics. Think of it like this: Henry Ford was a socialist and a racist, but his affordable cars were a boon to everyone, including people of color.