President Obama Angers Small Booksellers With Amazon Speech

president obamas amazon speech

President Obama gave a speech at an Amazon.com fulfillment warehouse in Chattanooga, Tennessee yesterday pointing to Amazon for instance of a task creator.

Independent booksellers and small publishers don’t see it that way.  They were angry.  They see the President’s action as supporting a huge corporation thon they claim has a monopoly, on the expense of small businesses.

In his remarks at the behemoth Amazon warehouse, President Obama said, “I’m calling on our businesses to do more for his or her workers.  Amazon is a smart example of what’s possible.  What you’re doing here at Amazon along with your Career Choice Program pays 95 percent of the schooling for workers who would like to earn skills in fields with high demand — not only, incidentally, jobs here at Amazon, but jobs anywhere –  computer-aided design or nursing.  I talked to Jeff Bezos yesterday, and he was so happy with the truth that he desires to see every employee at Amazon continually upgrade their skills and improve.”

But the independent players within the book publishing industry weren’t buying it.

Dennis Johnson, co-founding father of Melville House, an independent publisher located in Brooklyn, Ny, wrote with obvious resentment about what he considers Amazon’s near monopoly status, its ability to undercut competitors, lose money and yet on top of that, still get lauded by the President as a champion of jobs.   In a separate piece yesterday on his company’s blog he called the President’s move an “insult added to injury to these folks within the book business.”

The American Booksellers Association, together with the recent England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) and the hot Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA), wrote letters to the White House expressing outrage. A Publishers Weekly article  quotes excerpts:

NEIBA demanded to grasp, “What is the thinking behind this decision? . . . [Amazon’s] business model is predicated on fighting those states which have required them to gather and remit sales tax while driving Main Street brick and mortar stores into chapter 11 through predatory pricing.”

“We cannot believe here is your vision of job creation and the way forward for American middle class,” wrote NAIBA. “We would hope your administration will be standing with Main Street, and investigating the monopolistic practices of Amazon, in preference to explicitly or tacitly endorsing those practices.”

Just just before the President’s speech, Amazon announced it’s creating 5,000 new jobs at its fulfillment warehouses.  The jobs pays wages 30% higher than traditional retail jobs, says the Amazon announcement.   In line with Geekwire , Amazon’s newest financials indicate it now has nearly 97,000 employees.  That number is triple what it reported just three years ago.

Amazon plans to release an interview it does with President Obama, as a free Kindle Single today.

Image credit: Whitehouse.gov video still.

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