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from Jack Shafer:

Why I’m ditching my Amazon account

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I've got an Amazon habit. Like many of my other habits -- coffee drinking, newspaper reading, excessive profanity -- it's one that I've cultivated and refined over the years, ever since I made my first purchase on June 24, 1996, for a new copy of Dan Wakefield's New York in the Fifties.

In the beginning, I used Amazon primarily as a gift-delivery service. Later, I became the primary recipient of my purchases. Later still, I started "subscribing" to stuff my family regularly consumed, and after that I purchased an Amazon Prime membership, that amalgam of "free" movie streaming, speedy and cheap delivery of purchases, and more, including many purchases of audio books from the company's Audible subsidiary. I purchased Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite, which now anchors a drawer filled with orphaned devices and chargers. But I've resisted an Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card from Chase. You've got to draw the line somewhere.

One would think with that many hooks into me, I'd be more an Amazon slave than a customer. But that's not so. Thanks to the company's recent non-response to criticism that it's abusing its market power -- a silence that’s consistent with Amazon’s we’ll only-talk-if-we-want-to-promote-something media policy -- I've made the easy decision to turn my back on the world's biggest store.

The dispute appears to be over pricing, with big-five publisher Hachette refusing to accept Amazon's terms on e-books, although nobody can be sure because Hachette has been evasive about the exact cause of the dispute, and Amazon has so far refused to discuss it with the press or anybody else. What's transparent is that Amazon has slowed delivery of popular Hachette titles, including works by Malcolm Gladwell, Sherman Alexie, J.D. Salinger, and many others, and on a separate front is refusing pre-orders on many soon-to-be published Hachette books, such as J.K. Rowling's next effort.

from Breakingviews:

Rob Cox: ITT’s ghost hangs over Silicon Valley

By Rob Cox
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The number of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley familiar with the work of Harold Geneen would hardly fill a 140-character tweet. After all, Geneen wasn’t a technologist, the inventor of a new computing language or the founder of a seminal startup. He was the original M&A machine – the man whose deal-making 50 years ago turned ITT into a multibillion-dollar conglomerate.

from Stories I’d like to see:

Streamlining the Postal Service, when a merger fails and ‘Who lost Ukraine?’

U.S. postal service trucks sit parked at the post office in Del Mar, California

This piece has been updated with a postscript at the end.

1. Postal Service blues:

Last week’s report that the U.S. Postal Service lost another $1.9 billion in the last financial quarter made me yearn for a story detailing the cost constraints afflicting this largest and most hidebound of government services. Everything from union restrictions, to legacy pension obligations, to congressional pressure that keeps even the smallest rural post office not only open but open on Saturdays, to lobbyist strong-arming that keeps the service from using its 32,000 retail footprints to offer other services.

Here’s the way for a reporter to write this: Completely reimagine the Postal Service by supposing it was sold to a private company. In fact, suppose the uber-opposite of a government agency -- Amazon -- bought it.

from Breakingviews:

Mini-me tech bubble is mere shadow of 2000 excess

By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The latest mini-me internet bubble is a mere shadow of the excesses that came crashing to an end in 2000. Sure, even though the run-up may have paused, the feverish signs are unmistakable. Dozens of companies are in line to float, hubris is rampant, oddball valuation metrics abound, and revenue-free startups are still worth fortunes. Even nerd culture has somehow become hip. The latest boom is as absurd as the last, but it’s far smaller.

from Stories I’d like to see:

Amazon’s price increase, Congressional whistleblowers, and a question for President Obama

1. Are customers really upset at the Amazon Prime price increase?

The day after Amazon raised the annual subscription price for its Prime service from $79 to $99, the New York Times ran a story headlined, “Complaints As Amazon Raises Cost of Prime.” I found the reporting lacking and the headline unfair.

I imagine if I were reporting the story, I could find people to quote grousing about the 25 percent increase. Indeed, Times reporter David Streitfeld did it the easy way, going on Amazon’s own customer comments page.

from The Great Debate:

France says ‘Non’ to the digital age

France has kicked off 2014 with an array of skirmishes against Amazon, Google and other U.S. Internet companies, in what is shaping up as a classic battle between comfortable Gallic tradition and disruptive modernity.

On Thursday, Jan. 9, the French Senate unanimously approved a bill that would ban Amazon from offering free shipping on books in France. Strongly endorsed by the Ministry of Culture, the legislation is supposed to safeguard the existence of the country's 3,500 bookstores, about 800 of which are independent.

from Breakingviews:

Time for Larry and Sergey to invest in journalism?

By Rob Cox and Richard Beales
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

Is it time for Google billionaires Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt to invest in journalism? In 2013, Amazon architect Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar announced a new investigative reporting venture. Yet strictly by the numbers, few have made their money at the expense of the old-school pillars of the fourth estate quite as obviously as the Google guys.

from Breakingviews:

Amazon’s drone promise is yet more jam tomorrow

By Robert Cyran

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Amazon is promising yet more jam tomorrow – this time from drone deliveries. Jeff Bezos, the online retailer’s chief executive, expects to be able to use unmanned aircraft to deliver small packages within a few years. It’s a striking vision, but it seems as overly optimistic as investors’ expectations of the company overall. Amazon’s market value has ballooned to $180 billion despite big profits always hovering in the future.

from The Great Debate:

The 4 reasons why Amazon won’t be shipping by drone anytime soon

This weekend Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos told 60 Minutes that he wants small unmanned aerial vehicles -- drones -- to speed packages to online shoppers as early as 2017, cutting delivery times to as quick as 30 minutes.

It's a bold, imaginative plan -- one that could propel a host of technological and legal advancements.

from Full Focus:

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