The good news about Amazon

All of my editorials could sue the world’s largest e-commerce platform. At the same time, I am lucid: if you are reading this magazine right now, I am preaching to converts. Why go back then? Because there’s good news: Amazon doesn’t want the job of booksellers and, in many ways, doesn’t even want to be a retailer.

In What happened to Amazon’s Bookstore?1, David Streitfeld is categorical: not only the work of prescription and the human interaction specific to commerce since the dawn of time are of no interest to Amazon, but it is virtually impossible to arrange a role for the human being when dozens millions of products make up your offer. The reality is that Amazon sales are increasingly relying on third-party resellers, whether legitimate or not.

The shopping experience on the Amazon site, which has become a shambles, continues to deteriorate. The selection work that the giant does not want to do, he transfers the burden to the customer. Lost before the vastness of choice, he cannot count on the help of artificial intelligence – Amazon’s algorithms are greatly overestimated. Streitfeld rightly concludes that nearly thirty years after its launch in July 1994 in Jeff Bezos’ garage, the site still cannot adequately answer a question as simple as “what would Jean-Benoît Dumais like to read ? “.

I recommend watching the documentary. The reverse side of Amazon produced by the Quebecor Bureau of Investigation, which sent one of its journalists to work incognito for six weeks in a warehouse of the multinational. This investigation delves into the taxation of the giant’s income and the treatment reserved for its workforce, particularly from the angle of sanitary measures and risks in warehouses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Roger Chaar, owner of the Librairie Moderne in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and member of our board of directors, makes an appearance there in a segment devoted to the ability of independents to organize themselves to face this competition.

We can push the reflection further thanks to Julien Lefort-Favreau who, in The luxury of independence: Reflections on the world of books (Lux, 2021), addresses the notion of gentrification of minds put forward by New York artist and activist Sarah Schulman2 and of which Amazon represents the paroxysm. Its big platform is not a place where the book exists in a vital perspective and in a social space. A place where the circulation and debate of ideas are absent is necessarily doomed to a homogenization of these, which favors the survival of those which are the most consensual, the least radical. When a platform operated by a GAFAM essentially wants to collect your data and spy on your consumption habits, it’s the equivalent of razing an essential place that could have changed the lives of people in a neighborhood in order to build condos.

With the opening, since 2019, of data, distribution or sorting centers in Varennes, Lachine, Longueuil and Coteau-du-Lac, you will have understood the irony in the title of my editorial. How can you tell that it’s going to be fine?

As of this writing, Amazon is announcing the closure of 68 of its brick-and-mortar stores, including its 24 bookstores that have opened in the United States since 2015.

The two years of health crisis that we have just gone through have led a large part of the population to listen to science and scientists as well as to reorganize their budget to promote local purchasing. I agree with Jacques Nantel3, professor emeritus in marketing and specialist in retail at HEC Montréal for nearly forty years, who believes that this is a prelude to what will guide the collective and radically different choices that the next crisis, climatic this one: “No matter how you go about it, even if you were Bill Gates, Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg, it would be impossible for you, individually, to counter this threat. Emphasizing that we have had a dress rehearsal with the COVID-19 pandemic and that it is rare that we can practice reacting to a calamity, Nantel concludes: “This is rather good news”…

Photo: © Gabriel Germain


1., December 3, 2021.
2. Sarah Schulman, The gentrification of mindsEditions B42, 2018.
3. Jacques Nantel, Make it out! Our consumption between pandemic and climate crisisAll in all, 2022.

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The good news about Amazon

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