We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Trouble With Amazon

by Colin Robinson from The Nation. Or how Amazon book selling can ultimately make you stupid. The operations of this company, like Wal-Mart, illustrates the capitalist ethic of profits über alles. Here are a few choice excerpts:
When independent bookstores were in a healthier state, staff picks and hand selling could bring attention to great books people didn't know they wanted. Now that's much harder."

The shrinking of that market share has certainly been severe. The number of independent bookstores in America has more than halved in the past two decades. The pleasure of browsing shelves stocked with care and intelligence by independent owners of stores like Midnight Special in Santa Monica, Cody's in Berkeley and the Coliseum in Manhattan is only a memory.
Blocked at every turn in their attempts to escape this relentless race to the bottom, publishers have seen their revenues fall, forcing many to make cutbacks and concentrate more on lead titles, the blockbusters that, accountants tell them, are the most profitable component of their business. Fewer staff and falling promotion budgets mean that books by less established authors—the "mid-list"—receive ever shorter shrift.
"If left unchecked...predatory pricing policies will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to maintain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public."