Amazon Is a Logistical Disaster – The New Republic

Amazon Is a Logistical Disaster – The New Republic

The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, is undoubtedly the most anticipated book of the year. In order to have copies on hand for the book’s September 10 on-sale date, booksellers were given a lengthy nondisclosure agreement to sign. Not only could they not sell the book before it officially went on sale, they couldn’t read a single word in it beforehand. Critics, meanwhile, were given watermarked review copies. If anyone broke the embargo—perhaps the strictest since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released over a decade ago—they would be held personally liable. In an age when everything people are interested in, from albums to television shows, can be expected to leak, the book’s publisher, Penguin Random House, had taken extraordinary steps to keep the book’s contents under wraps. No one, it seems, told Amazon. Over a week before the book’s publication, the mega-retailer sent out a reported 800 copies of The Testaments to customers who had preordered it. Amazon shrugged it off, blaming a “technical error” and releasing a statement that should be read while imagining a corporate spokesperson barely suppressing a laugh: “We value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers.” Penguin Random House followed Amazon’s lead, releasing an anodyne statement that didn’t even name the retailer—despite being (by far) the largest publisher in the business, PRH is dwarfed by Amazon and is loathe to start a flame war with their most important account. Other booksellers, meanwhile, were apoplectic, correctly noting that they would have faced enormous consequences if they had put the book on sale early. Of course, 800 copies are a drop in the bucket to Amazon and PRH—but not to independent booksellers. Some see a conspiracy at work. What better way than by leaking the most anticipated book in years is there to tell customers that Amazon—and not a small business—is the place to go if you want things quickly? Though Amazon is not above such stunts, it no longer needs to risk negative press to cement its brand identity. Instead, the reality is almost certainly more mundane. This wasn’t a “technical error” or a vast conspiracy. It simply reflects Amazon’s spectacular growth and its ever increasing market power; as the retailer has become more dominant and even less beholden to suppliers, incidental errors have increased accordingly. As it races toward one-day shipping—and, it seems, adding a UPS-ish logistics company to its lengthy list of identities (retailer, tech company, film studio, etc.)—the company is unleashing chaos everywhere, both on its website and on the city streets in which it operates. At the same time, Amazon now has a serious counterfeit problem and its next-day delivery program is literally killing people. Though famed for its attention to logistics, as the company increasingly dominates retail, it’s choking the infrastructure and supply chains it relies on.Amazon has, over the course of its entire history, been utterly unscrupulous in pursuing growth, cheating competitors
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