business news in context, analysis with attitude

I continue to get email about last week's FaceTime story in which I talked about it being 20 years since my first Amazon purchase, and how the retailer - and my purchases - have evolved over the years. Some readers think that I'm buying into a retail model that is destroying traditional businesses ... but not everybody feels that way:

You nailed it - Amazon is not to blame for a brick & mortar failure, and I'm going to check my order history as soon as I get home to see what my nostalgic trail says about me.  I'm not a direct member, as I use my daughter as a procurement agent,  but I'm sure there is enough there to be of interest.

MNB reader Marv Imus wrote:

Fascinating !  I’m sure you will get a lot of members checking their history now but I thought I would report back to you anyhow.  My first order was also books on Jan 24, ’97.  My first digital order was Dec 10, ’09, when I got my first Kindle reader.  Of course now all my book purchases are digital.

I noted last week that when I started shopping at Amazon, they'd send out gifts like coffee cups just to say thank you to customers. MNB reader Linda Yordy responded:

Used the Amazon coffee cups ‘til they wore out.


We write here a lot about how Amazon uses some businesses to fund others ... and while some people seem to think of it as a kind of shell game, it in fact is the smartest way to maintain leadership.

One MNB reader wrote:

I agree that Amazon is investing heavily to succeed, and Prime is largely footing the bill, followed closely by the cash being thrown off by AWS…

From another reader:

Their global ambitions for growth are spread across a large variety of areas, and while some will not work out, most will, and we will continue to watch  them succeed by leveraging technology to meet consumer’s shopping needs…

And another:

IMHO, Jeff Bezos will take his place in history alongside Edison, Ford, Firestone and others based on his unique ability to couple a visionary approach with long-term thinking.  Amazon represents a very specialized and powerful competitor that has more data, logistics, and consumer demand data than any other company in history. Based on their continuing success, they have been able to fund massive global human and physical resources that are being deployed with unprecedented focus and persistence to win at both consumer and enterprise levels.

But some remain unconvinced:

I truly understand the context of actively competing and enjoy your reporting and views on each new thing Amazon does.  In many ways, however, this is an entirely different competitor…one with huge revenue streams unrelated to retail (i.e. AWS) that seems to leverage those to “buy into” portions of the retail segment.

Much of Amazon’s success in retail is built on the free shipping aspects of Prime.  This week, I read a few articles indicating they lost over $7B last year on their shipping program…that they’re only recovering 55% of their shipping expenses via Prime fees, etc.  The year before, they lost $3B on shipping.  I haven’t examined their reports, so I can’t validate these…and I don’t know if this is just reinvestment of retail profits or…buying the business…but it is worth asking whether Amazon retail by itself is indeed profitable…and if not, does their investment constitute fairness or is it a new business model for becoming a monopoly.

It’s tough to argue that “free shipping” is a sustainable process…and it’s tough to compete with a company willing to lose $7B.  I guess I’d ask that you’d report on that aspect of their business also.

I love emails like this one, which is not about the business but rather about my discourse last week about binge TV watching, from MNB reader Jerry Sternberg:

Have read your MNB for many years, don’t always agree with your positions but do more often than not. Have never written to you before but I could not agree more on most of your viewing habits. My solace has been catching up on Justified. Six years done in a binge. However it’s just one month until Bosch returns.

I want to thank you for much of your reading recommendations as I discovered Michael Connelly (among others) and his great cast of characters.

My pleasure.

And here's the good news.

Ace Atkins has a new Spenser novel coming out on May 5, and a Quinn Colson novel coming out on July 18.

Michael Connelly has two new novels coming out this year, on July 18 and October 31.

Reed Farrel Coleman has a new Jesse Stone novel coming out on September 12.

There is a new Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child coming out on November 7, and a short story collection coming out on May 16.

If only George Pelecanos would come out with a new Spero Lucas novel, it'd be a perfect year for people like me who love novels in this genre.
KC's View: