Home » Amazon, Disruptive Innovation » Afraid Amazon Will Crush Your Small Business? “Complaining Is Not a Strategy”

Afraid Amazon Will Crush Your Small Business? “Complaining Is Not a Strategy”

2 December 2013

From AllThingsD:

Charlie Rose: A lot of small book publishers and other smaller companies worry that the power of Amazon gives them no chance.

Jeff Bezos: You got to earn your keep in this world. When you invent something new, if customers come to the party, it’s disruptive to the old way.

Rose: Yeah, but I mean, there are areas where your power’s so great, and your margin — you’re prepared to make it so thin — that you can drive people out of business. And you have that kind of strength, and people worry: Is Amazon ruthless in their pursuit of market share?

Bezos: The Internet is disrupting every media industry, Charlie. You know, people can complain about that, but complaining is not a strategy. Amazon is not happening to book selling; the future is happening to book selling.

. . . .

Later in the segment, Bezos acknowledges Amazon’s own mortality, which could explain his determination to stomp out competition.

“Companies have short life spans,” he said. “And Amazon will be disrupted one day.”

“The companies that are the shiniest and most important of any era … you wait a few decades and they’re gone,” he added.

Link to the rest at AllThingsD and thanks to Josh for the tip.

Amazon, Disruptive Innovation

36 Comments to “Afraid Amazon Will Crush Your Small Business? “Complaining Is Not a Strategy””

  1. Bezos is a smart, smart man.

  2. I think the emphasis on the danger to small publishers is misplaced. For them, as a group, Amazon has probably opened up more opportunity than it has closed off, though that will vary once one drills down to individual firms.

    It is the big publishers and bookstores who stand to be disrupted the most by Amazon. As a group, they all stand to lose more than they gain, in the longer run, by having a successful business model disrupted by Amazon. I hasten to add that I mean successful by their terms, not necessarily by writer’s terms.

    The supposed protection of small publishers and small bookstores is really a stalking horse for the protection of big publishers and big bookstores.

    • I went to a panel at Worldcon last year celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Circlet Press, and the owners of the house said blatantly that if they hadn’t been able to get their backlist on Amazon, they’d have gone out of business. (It didn’t help that they had some spectacularly bad luck almost entirely related to the way that traditional publishing works.) As it was they had become profitable again after years in the red and all the trendlines were good. Their astonishment and gratitude for what Internet publishing had done for them were quite palpable.

      Note: While I was quite impressed with the owners of Circlet as people and as promoters of fantastic erotica, their payment/royalty schedules are not something I can support. This message is not an endorsement of Circlet to other writers.

    • Amazon seems to have given smaller publishers an advantage, as I see it. There are a lot of smaller publishers that are using Amazon wisely. These are publishers I probably never would have noticed if they hadn’t used Amazon to help their business.

      Amazon does some bad, which I disagree with, but I think it generally helps small businesses right now. That may not be the case in the future. I can easily imagine the day when Amazon turns against small businesses if it ever becomes less profitable for them or if they just decide to go in a different direction. There are always risks in working with another business/corporation. But the good thing is, Amazon has at least changed the industry so that there should be more options for small businesses anyway.

      I really don’t think there would be as many writers or that writing as a career would be taken seriously if Amazon didn’t exist. I doubt many other businesses would have seen the opportunity there. There would be a lot more impoverished wannabe writers if that were the case.

  3. It was an interesting interview with Jeff Bezos on 60 Minutes last night. It just shows you that he and Amazon are doers not complainers. And the winners are the consumers, the buyers. I wonder if the complainers know about customers, I mean the final customers, us. When I hear about blaming Amazon, I hear, “we want socialized business, we want protection from success.”

    • ^This.

    • Although of course, since socialized business would THEORETICALLY mean the greatest possible success for all (theoretically meaning that’s the idea, whether or not socialism works), and since Amazon allows for the greatest success for independent artists and start-up companies, they’re getting exactly what they want. Their own vested interests are what prevent them from seeing that. What they’re really saying is, “I wish I’d created that first.”

  4. You got to earn your keep in this world. When you invent something new, if customers come to the party, it’s disruptive to the old way.

    Next question.

  5. Later in the segment, Bezos acknowledges Amazon’s own mortality, which could explain his determination to stomp out competition.

    “Companies have short life spans,” he said. “And Amazon will be disrupted one day.”

    “The companies that are the shiniest and most important of any era … you wait a few decades and they’re gone,” he added.
    Microsoft’s famous concern about the fabled “two guys in a garage”.
    The really smart companies are the ones that dominate while they can and manage to stay relevant when (and where) they can’t.

    I do like the aphorism: “Complaining is not a strategy”, indeed. Obviously Bezos is aware of the ADS epidemic and shrugs it off as a sign of success.

  6. Except that complaining is a marvellous strategy. The people who aren’t trying to spin it out of existence usually call it ‘criticism’ though.

    • I’d argue that ‘criticism’ is done by neutral third parties after an objective view of the facts. ‘Complaining’ would be done by one’s competitors. And from what I’ve seen, Amazon has a lot of complaining from competitors and very little criticism from customers or indie artists, who have a closer relationship because of Amazon.

      • I’d argue that’s largely a matter of semantics. When I criticize a company I’m usually not being neutral. I just don’t necessarily have skin in the game from a business standpoint.

        And what if I did? I criticize politicians I vote against all the time.

      • And as an indie artist I have plenty of criticisms about amazon. It’s not like they’re saints or anything.

        • Are you whining to politicians or bureaucrats to come protect you from Amazon? Conspiring with competitors and blaming Amazon? That is the context of the Bezos interview. The passivity and sense of aggrieved entitlement of the whiners.

          Nobody is yet looking to canonize Bezos just yet, just admiring a well run caper, for the most part.

    • Except that complaining is a marvellous strategy.

      Really? What does it accomplish?

      • It provides a narrative that can be used to frame your counter-argument. Obviously it’s not *enough* to complain–you have to use it conjunction with other things. But it allows you to reach groups of people who are not immediately connected to your consideration and get them to consider your grievance. If you can get them to agree that your complaint is valid, *and* you can provide them with an alternative they find compelling enough, you can then flip them into allies in the struggle that your complaint is highlighting.

        “Complaint” is one of the primary vocabularies of politics.

  7. I use AWS. S3 and EC2 specifically. The cost is a small fraction of previous, unsatisfying solutions for the storage of gigabytes of video/audio files and live streaming of my webcasts.

    I do so much business with Amazon. Each month, when I put everything in Quickbooks, I’m always surprised.

    I’m a KDP author, Createspace author, an AWS customer, an Amazon Associate, and a .com customer. If I checked Quickbooks, I might even find more!

  8. “Complaint” actually is a strategy, in the ideal world. Our nation [USA] backs it utterly… read the Bill of Rights. It is called ‘petition.’ It means bringing complaints forward. An inalienable right that persons from Britain did not have under their king, not there, and not here in the colonies and later in the independence movement. Buyers complain, and often receive better service. Moguls complain and get bail outs. And on and on. Only artists and innocent persons incarcerated seem to have the most trouble being listened to for better wages or not to pay for someone else’s.

    just my .o2. I think Bezos looks like he could use some sleep, his one watering eye and what looks like same condition the elder Mrs. Bush has, cant give limitless energy to go on and on as he seems to. I notice I’m receiving email from WaPo to pay for what was formerly free. I see a jump in my AMZ stock. I watch the massive number of young self publishing authors with such hope and such small incomes. I see in our state and several others we cannot be ‘associates’ of amazon, and that appears an interference of business advantage, not only for the bookstores that could become associates in other states but not in several, but also for private citizens just trying to get by financially. I like Bezos spirit. And he has complained and complained out the kazoo to various state legislatures…. it IS a strategy, but knowing Jeff as I do, I’d wager he would love for all persons to believe that and stop petitioning, while he goes right on doing so.

    Same for his ‘drones’… I can just see it, five pound pkgs dropping on people’s heads, bashing into buildings, most of all– young mafioso taking them down with air rifles to plunder, and horizon ‘sight pollution’ of all the crap now flying through the sky every day so people can have their goodie in 1/2 hour. Unless it’s lifesaving, I dont think its a great idea. And, again, knowing Jeff, my bet is that showing off the ‘drone’ is a misdirection. It’s a bone to throw. He absolutely is a circus guy… watch the drone, while I pull the real rabbit out of the real hat behind the scenes. Von Clowschwitz too says tell the enemy what you’re doing, only to manipulate them. Otherwise shut up.

  9. The consumer is deciding for himself. He puts his welfare above the welfare of the complainers. The consumer doesn’t care.

  10. I really like Amazon, but Bezos sometimes comes off as quite arrogant in his interviews.

    • It’s part of the mindset required to be a big company CEO.
      Problem is, a lot of execs have the arrogance without the competence. The Peter Principle applies to CEOs, too.

  11. I deeply admire Bezos’ brilliance. I’ve said before I think he will change the face of Capitalism, and make it consumer oriented, rather than competition oriented. And I am grateful that the liberation of the writer fell in line with his business goals (and was a natural progression from digital publishing).

    But his ruthlessness bothers me. Ruthlessness can be turned in many directions. On competitors, employees, and on the customers themselves.

    But I’m also not one for ruthless Capitalism. I’m not one for ruthlessness period. I don’t actually think it’s a positive character quaility. And I don’t actually believe that ‘survival of the fittest’ is an ethical moral code. So Bezos and I probably don’t share the same value system. He’s doing a lot of very good things, but I think it’s wise to keep an eye on him.

    • Competition under capitalism has delivered more prosperity for more people than any other system in history. And consumer oriented? Competition is what delivers lower prices and new products to consumers. We can observe how the noncompetitive alternatives to capitalism have done.

      • Indeed. The Soviet version of Amazon would have offered everything for sale that you could possibly want… except only potatoes and tractors would ever have been in stock.

        • I think they’ve been out of potatoes for some time now.

          Now that they’re cultivating Snowdon.

          couldnt resist. lol

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