Are Amazon’s Brick-and-Mortar Plans Good or Bad for Publishing and Consumers?

Editor’s note: Always eager to instigate a debate between Dave Pezza and Matt DiVenere, I emailed them the news that Amazon was considering opening 400 brick-and-mortar locations. Their reactions did not disappoint. Matt graciously took up the devil’s advocate mantel, something that Dave will pay dearly for in the future. Feel free to join the debate in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.—Daniel Ford  

Dave Pezza: Those neo-fascist, monopoly-loving idiots can go ahead and open as many brick-and-mortar locations as they would like. This is what happens to most over-abundant enterprises. They get bored of swimming, sleeping, and showering with the inhuman amounts of money they have amassed, and they start to get cute. Are you fucking with me Amazon? Your whooooole business model since your inception, which was about the same time the fucking Internet started, was getting rid of the overhead associated with physical stores. And now they are hacking up a deep lugy into the face of modern publishing and bookstores by opening brick-and-mortar locations. Why? Because they are, and always have been, complete and total douchebags. I envy their douchbaggery level. It's unprecedented. Hopefully they'll lose millions of dollars in the process as they continue alternate between shooting and tea-bagging the dead corpse of American publishing like a teenage, hyperactive, hypoglycemic, depression-soaked Halo player.

Matt DiVenere: In this dog eat, dog world, Amazon has decided to take on an industry that needed a serious revitalization in order to stay relevant in a world filled with screens and has won outright.

For those who go the route of calling Amazon "mom-and-pop bookstore killers," are you toeing this line because of nostalgia? Do you still own a Super Nintendo and play it with all of your friends? Do you have a blog and call yourself a foodie even though you have no real experience in the food industry other than eating? Do you only listen to music on record players because "that's how music was intended to be played?" Do you refuse to eat anything that had a face (not counting that burger you ate last weekend when you were drunk)?

I hate to be the one to break this to you, but that bookstore that you drive by every once in a while that you say is, "awesome and your favorite place," probably wouldn't be around anymore no matter what Amazon does. America is no longer flipping pages and getting paper cuts. America is scrolling on screens whether you like it or not. Can't you just be happy that a major company has decided to give you a space other than Starbucks to be pretentious?

By the way, how are you reading this? On a screen? What do you mean?? You didn't print it out so you can read it in front of a window while someone Instagrams a photo of you reading (#humblebrag)? Point, set, match.

Dave: Matt, you ignorant slut.

“The new ways, the digital ways, the screens, the clouds, it is all unstoppable.” “It is the future.” “Stop toeing this line.” “The old ways are enfeebled and trite.” 

Low-evolved, hypocritical sheep say these things. It is with the collective bleating of the Instagram stars and YouTube celebrities and the-point-and-click Contras that our world is now changed, and for the better we would be led to believe.  Technology, innovation, and change are fundamental building blocks of our national chemistry, an elemental necessity that follows established rules and principles. A business that is not growing is dying. Print and tangible commodities are dead.

Wrong. You are simply wrong. 

Not all change is progress. It would seem that Americans are still getting paper cuts.  And they like it. E-books sales have dropped considerably for what should be a continually booming industry. Vinyl has surpassed live streaming music in revenue for the first time since ever.

How and why you ask from the inch and a half screen of your over priced, under used iWatch? (Oh, it tells time? So does my $50 dollar Nautica). Because Americans are not idiots. Because new is not always better. More is better. Diversity is better. Some music sounds much better on vinyl. Some music does not. Thank god I can get both because I am smart enough to know the difference. I read Scotty McDouchernozzel's New York Times blurb on the Iowa caucus results on my iPhone Monday night. I will read his column on Ted Cruz's victory on Sunday in print over a hot cup of coffee and a couple of eggs. I, like most Americans (I hope), know when technology/change is useful, and when it is not.

The issue of Amazon opening stores is first and foremost a consumer issue. I do not want to buy my items from one place. I want options. Options give me value. It gives me power. The mom-and-pop store gives me a feeling of home and customer service. These properties cancel out their higher prices. But sometimes Amazon's $2.99 price tag on a favorite paperback just can't be beat. Barnes & Noble's signed editions, 20% off coupons, and hardcover deals keep me walking through those doors on a weekly basis. I have options.

Having physical Amazon stores is as close to a monopoly as we have ever seen in the publishing world. Imagine Barnes & Noble went under and is bought by Amazon's brick-and-mortar division. What's to stop its online prices from skyrocketing to meet its in-store prices? Nothing but a court order, and we have all seen how that works out.

Don't be an idiot. It is very clear what Amazon is trying to do here: make more money. This is a zero sum game we are playing. More to some means less for others.

Matt: A business that doesn't attempt at improving itself is dying. Staying stagnant is to die a slow, painful death. Bigger is better. Newer is better. Why do people sleep outside the stores for the newest iPhone each year?

Do people do that for the latest hardcover novel? No. That's because the younger generations have not grown up with their parents reading the newspaper at night. Parents now are on their phones or tablets. In the classroom, children are considered behind if they don't have the basic handle on typing and Internet terminology. It's not actually a dig at the older ways but more of a nod toward what's to come.

If we rewind before Amazon hit it big online, large corporate stores such as Barnes & Noble were taking business away from the small neighborhood bookstores. It was very rare to see a local bookstore update itself to stay relevant with the times.

The same can be said for the print newspaper industry, more specifically, the national print newspapers. The Internet world came up on them fast and they were way too slow and stubborn to attack. Instead, they reacted and…well. You can see what's happened to the print industry.

Of course Amazon is trying to make money. That's what successful companies do.

And Amazon dipping its toes in the water with the brick and mortar storefronts is just the tip of the iceberg. If they are successful, there will be more companies to follow. What if Apple starts selling records at the Apple stores? Tesla sells its own cars, most of them in a small storefront with limited test drive vehicles available.

There is room in the marketplace for this. And if there are fewer options for you to purchase a book, you can't blame Amazon for that. Blame society. Blame technology. Blame whatever helps you sleep at night. But don't blame the successful company looking to add to its offerings.

Okay, your turn. Join the discussion by commenting in the section below or by tweeting us @WritersBone

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