Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Amazon Prime Is a Tremendous and Terrifying Thing

Ellen Cushing, in what I think is a must-read article in the Atlantic:

This type of loyalty is remarkable. “It used to be that being a consumer was all about choice,” says Emily West, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the author of the forthcoming book Buy Now: How Amazon Branded Convenience and Normalized Monopoly. But now, “two-thirds of people start their product searches on Amazon.” Prime discourages comparison shopping — looking around is pointless when everything you need is right here — even as Amazon’s sheer breadth of products makes shoppers feel as if they have agency.


“Amazon is a beast we’ve never seen before,” [Jake] Alimahomed-Wilson told me. “Amazon powers our Zoom calls. It contracts with ICE. It’s in our neighborhoods. This is a very different thing than just being a large retailer, like Walmart or the Ford Motor Company.”

Even the most ardent capitalist must recognize how corrupted the marketplace has become after decades of conglomerate-making acquisitions. Amazon’s web services and logistics know-how are part of modern life’s infrastructure. I do not think we have even begun to contend with the present-day effects of such a vast empire of shareholder-led control.