How to Beat Amazon

OUR STRATEGY AGAINST MONOPOLY

c/o Jeff Spicer Getty Images

On-line seller Amazon has a current market value of $1.59 trillion and climbing. It’s the largest e-commerce company in the world and no one else is close. At the beginning of 2020 Amazon had over 30,000 delivery trucks and has put in an order with electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian for 100,000 more. Amazon currently has 175 enormous fulfillment centers in operation– 150 million square feet of space. If present trends continue, these numbers will increase. Quickly.

A CURRENT-DAY OCTOPUS

The Octopus is a 1901 novel by Frank Norris describing a railroad monopoly which was ruthlessly putting anyone who stood in its way of expansion and growing profits out of business. Sound familiar? In the novel (based upon actual events) a group of ranchers– self-employed businessmen– are utterly destroyed by the unfeeling monolith.

The good news is that 1901 was a sort of peak for the railroad monsters. A fledgling technology created and pushed by upstart entrepreneurs soon enough displaced the older technology with a more flexible alternative: the automobile.

Which means that even Amazon can be competed with– but it will take new ideas. A variety of them. We’ve come up with some of our own.

HOW THE MONSTER OPERATES

Amazon achieved its monopoly status, beginning with books, based on two basic ideas.

1.) Offer more choices than anyone else– ultimately, to offer every book ever published.

2.) Offer the products at a lower price than anyone else. Lower than anyone could possibly match.

The result has been a boon for the compulsive reader, but damaging to publishers– and devastating to writers.

WHY?

Because in these conditions it’s all but impossible for any new writer to stand out. For any single book to stand out.

At Barnes & Noble, the author was one out of 50,000. On Amazon, he’s one of millions.

Contrast this with a cultural entity at the beginning of its cycle. In the early days of hip-hop music in the late 70’s, how many prominent hip-hop recording artists were there? A handful?

Or take the rock n’ roll explosion in 1956. Again, fueled by a mere handful of stars who could create acceptable versions of the hybrid genre: Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Elvis Presley– few others.

When the Beatles arrived in America in February 1964, they were the only British rock act in the vicinity, and stood out. Five years later, after every possible put-together group of mop-top Brits who could hold a guitar– in tune or not– had entered these shores, the value was not so much. It makes a huge difference if you’re one of one, or one of five– or one of 500,000.

In MFA programs across the U.S.A., students learn to craft fiction or poetry as well as– and indistinguishable from– that of ten thousand others. What, then, is the point?

THE GREAT LEVELLER

For books, Amazon has been like McDonald’s with hamburgers: The Great Leveller. Small-d democratic. Everyone can afford to eat hamburgers– and everyone now can afford to read any book. We’re all the same. In the process– with the commodification of the product– that product has been cheapened. Anyone now can read books but few are reading them. Books have lost their importance, their uniqueness, their value. They’re part of Amazon’s discount bin, rejects nobody wants.

DOING THE OPPOSITE

If Amazon’s strategy was to flood the market with books at rock-bottom prices, the antidote is to do the opposite, with a proviso.

Doing the opposite means offering a small number of authors, at a limited number of outlets. The proviso is the authors will need to have hyper-appealing personas– able to be “stars”– and the writing as well as the presentation will need to be notably different from anything else on offer. Attention-getting. The writing will need to be in a new style and genre, while the literary vehicles– books, if you will– will need to look like something other than a book. The literary upstart will need to offer–

THE SHOCK OF THE NEW

Which is why we put so much emphasis on innovation. Innovation of the art and the vehicle of the art.

A difficult task, with enormous potential payoff.

Our plan stands upon three basic ideas.

1.) Offer authentic artistic experience.

2.) Rebound away from the cheap.

3.) Make our products unique.

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In his quest to corner the market on books, Jeff Bezos cheapened the contents of those volumes: literature. Instead of a valued expression of the highest sentiments and ideals of mankind, literature became a bargain basement commodity, sold at discounts or given away. A race to the bottom. Our mission is to restore value to the literary art. To accomplish that will mean revamping the art, the way it’s presented, packaged, and marketed. All will need to be opposite to Amazon’s glorified bargain-basement discount shop.

The printed analog products– which we call zeens– we’ve created so far, three in number, are templates for those to follow. In the three zeens we express a variety of artistic ideas, attempt numerous effects, some partially successful, others more so. What we’re learning with our artistic and literary experiments will pay dividends in the future– on the road toward creating truly amazing literary journals.

To see those experiments, click on our POP SHOP. You may choose to order one or more of them– then open them when they arrive and fully see what we’re about.

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