Saturday A.M. reading

This Business Week article on and Jeff Bezos, entitled ‘The Omnivore’ in the print edition and ‘Amazon, the Company that Ate the World’ online offers a great testament to thorough and in-depth reporting, and the space to run it (too used to skimming on line, I had to sit down with the magazine to read it through this a.m.). You see Bezos and his driven, loopy, fun, crass self. There’s enough space and good detail that we see Amazon’s impact on many markets, richly detailed vignettes about the creation of the Kindle and the new Kindle Fire (Bezos comes off looking like Steve Jobs, an obvious reason why Amazon gave the access it did), and the deleterious effect of bigness on communities and entire states. We also have space to see Amazon’s stumblings, though there could have been more focus on that (the A9 search engine is still around? did anybody note that Amazon’s services customers also become targets — Borders, Netflix). It even reminds us that local reporting really matters — it was the Allentown Morning Call that exposed Amazon’s Dickensian operational practices in its local warehouse (sadly, Business Week seems to have asked only about the lack of air conditioning, not Amazon’s reported stringing along of temporary workers). Innovation rarely means pure progress.
Other interesting nuggets from this piece: It makes the argument that the new Kindle Fire “crystallizes the difference between Apple, which tends to keep prices (and profit margins) high, and Amazon, which likes to start low and drive lower in an effort to knee-cap the competition,” reminding me of articles about Wal-Mart just a few years ago. It also points to Amazon as the reason that Borders is out of business, Best Buy is shrinking store size and Wal-Mart has seen same-store sales drop for nine straight quarters. Good work by Brad Stone, ex NYT.
Another long and beautiful piece I’m reading in a magazine: The Birth of Religion, in National Geographic, by Charles Mann. Interesting argument for religion as pre-dating farming, but I’m not sure it’s the first. I remember listening to Colin Renfrew talking about sites in Eastern Europe that I think were also nomad burial sites and showed all the signs of religious practice. I’ll have to go look that up. The NatGeo article does make a good case for why its site makes Stonehenge look simple.

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