Unfair Summary TR

Amazon Plays Rough. So What?

by Joe Nocera, the New York Times, OCT. 13, 2014

Is Amazon a monopoly?

That certainly is what Franklin Foer, the editor of The New Republic, thinks. In the magazine’s current issue, he has written a lengthy polemic denouncing the company for all manner of sins. The headline reads: “Amazon Must Be Stopped.”

“Shopping on Amazon,” he writes, “has so ingrained itself in modern American life that it has become something close to our unthinking habit, and the company has achieved a level of dominance that merits the application of a very old label: monopoly.”

Foer’s brief is that Amazon undercuts competitors so ruthlessly and squeezes suppliers so brutally — “in its pursuit of bigness” — that it has become “highly worrisome.” Its founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, “borrowed his personal style from the parsimonious Sam Walton,” the founder of (shudder) Walmart, and Foer notes that pushing suppliers has always been the key to Walmart’s low prices, just as it is for Amazon’s.

But, he says, when Amazon does it, the effect is somehow “darker.” Why? Because “without the constraints of brick and mortar, it considers nothing too remote from its core business, so it has grown to sell server space to the C.I.A., produce original television shows about bumbling congressmen, and engineer its own line of mobile phones.” What, precisely, is darker about making TV shows about bumbling congressmen is left unsaid.

And then, of course, there is the book business, which Amazon most certainly dominates, with 67 percent of the e-book market and 41 percent of the overall book market, by some estimates. Foer devotes a big chunk of his essay to Amazon’s ongoing efforts to “disintermediate” the book business, most vividly on display in its current battle over e-book pricing with Hachette, in which it is punishing Hachette by putting its books at a disadvantage on its website compared with other publishers’ books. Foer worries about what Amazon’s tactics will ultimately mean for book advances. And he fears that books will become commoditized — “deflating Salman Rushdie and Jennifer Egan novels to the price of a Diet Coke.”

What he doesn’t say — because he can’t — is that Amazon is in clear violation of the country’s antitrust laws. As Annie Lowrey and Matthew Yglesias both pointed out in blog posts (at New York magazine and Vox respectively), there is no possible way Amazon can legitimately be called a monopoly. Lowrey notes that Amazon’s sales amount to only “about 15 percent of total e-commerce sales.” Walmart’s e-commerce sales are growing at least as fast as Amazon’s. Meanwhile, as Yglesias points out, Amazon has to compete with far larger rivals, including not just Walmart, but Target and Home Depot in the brick-and-mortar world, and Google and Apple in the digital universe.

The truth is that American antitrust law is simply not very concerned with the fate of competitors. What it cares about is whether harm is being done to consumers. Walmart has squashed many more small competitors than Amazon ever will, with nary a peep from the antitrust police. Even in the one business Amazon does dominate — books — it earned its market share fair and square, by, among other things, inventing the first truly commercially successful e-reader. Even now, most people turn to Amazon for e-books not because there are no alternatives but because its service is superior.

“In confronting what to do about Amazon,” Foer writes as his essay nears its conclusion, “first we have to realize our own complicity. We’ve all been seduced by the deep discounts, the monthly automatic diaper delivery, the free Prime movies, the gift wrapping, the free two-day shipping, the ability to buy shoes or books or pinto beans or a toilet all from the same place.”

Our complicity? In fact, in its two decades of life, Amazon has redefined customer service in a way that has delighted people and caused them to return to the site again and again. Does Amazon have a dark side? Yes, it does — primarily in the way it has historically treated its warehouse workers. But to say that Amazon has to be stopped because it is giving people what they want is to misunderstand the nature of capitalism.

Let’s be honest here: The intelligentsia is focused on Amazon not because it sells pinto beans or toilets, but because it sells books. That’s their business. Amazon is changing the book industry in ways that threaten to diminish the role of publishers and traditional ways of publishing. Its battle with Hachette is a battle over control. It’s not terribly different from the forces that ultimately disintermediated the music business.

As an author, I’m rooting for Hachette. The old system — in which the writer gets an advance, and the publisher markets the final product — works for me, as it does for most writers of serious nonfiction.

But, am I going to stop using Amazon? No way. I’m betting you won’t either.

SUMMARY 1
Joe Nocera is losing his mind. As an author himself, he should know better than to defend a mammoth company that routinely suppresses the books of familiar—dare I say important?—authors, as part of its business model of diving to the very bottom of the bottom line. Nocera defends Amazon’s practice of punishing rival publisher Hachette by, in Franklin Foer’s words “putting its books at a disadvantage on its website compared with other publishers’ books.” This blatant censorship of a rival company’s 1st-Amendment-protected products is a clear violation of the freedom of speech of authors who had the audacity to be published by someone other than Amazon. But to Nocera, that constitutional violation doesn’t matter. He defends Amazon on the flimsy pretext that they aren’t, at least technically, well not entirely, “in clear violation of the country’s antitrust laws.” And just because Amazon doesn’t entirely dominate e-commerce sales, he comes to the additional, equally ridiculous conclusion, that the company that commands nearly half of America’s book sales, cannot in any “legitimate” way, “be called a monopoly.” All I can say is, Joe Nocera must be completely addicted to cheap e-book prices to defend Amazon’s predatory tactics. I hope he never gets another book advance.

SUMMARY 2
Joe Nocera must be working on a book deal with Amazon. How else can we explain his defense of the company that doesn’t just sell books but also provides a self-publishing platform for authors whose books aren’t good enough to attract a real publisher? And then, as if publishing their 3rd-rate work weren’t enough of an insult to book readers, cynically promotes those books at the expense of legitimately-published authors who happen to be working with another publishing house? Nocera clearly perceives the quality difference between Amazon’s e-books and those of other publishers. He says himself, “most people turn to Amazon for e-books not because there are no alternatives but because its service is superior.” Apparently that superior service includes telling readers which e-books (and for that matter, which physical paper books) to buy—Amazon’s! Is that what he means when he says “Amazon has redefined customer service”? The comparison to Walmart is obvious. No American company is better at forcing suppliers to lower their prices in return for a chance to be on the selling floor than Sam Walton’s retail behemoth. And Nocera is clearly rooting for Jeff Bezos as the digital competitor to Walton, who in encroaching on Amazon’s core business. “Walmart’s e-commerce sales are growing at least as fast as Amazon’s,” claims Nocera, who uses this observation to excuse Amazon for its heavy-handed tactics against rival publishers. If “Walmart has squashed many more small competitors than Amazon ever will,” maybe Amazon can be excused for squashing Hachette, with “nary a peep from the antitrust police.” After all, even though “Amazon is in clear violation of the country’s antitrust laws,” it’s just good book business, right Joe?

SUMMARY 3
Finally, someone is sticking up for Amazon and Walmart. I didn’t think I’d find it at the New York Times, but I’m grateful to Joe Nocera for his passionate defense of the tactics of America’s two greatest retail giants, one brick-and-mortar, the other entirely digital. Both are masters at driving down costs for the benefit of their customers, which angers suppliers. But the latest cries of unfairness from rival publisher Hachette are truly low blows, accusing Amazon of censorship and constitutional free speech violations just because their books are not heavily promoted at Amazon’s “store.” Nocera admits Amazon is “punishing Hachette by putting its books at a disadvantage on its website” in its ongoing effort to “‘disintermediate’ the book business,” but rightly asks, “How is this ‘darker'” than Walmart’s key tactic of “pushing suppliers” for deeper and deeper discounts in return for floor space? As Nocera—clearly a champion of lower prices for consumers no matter who gets crushed in the process—puts the case: “Does Amazon have a dark side? Yes, it does . . . it is giving people what they want . . . the nature of capitalism.” This is only bad news for smaller publishers or manufacturers too weak to compete. Enemies of capitalism can cry all they want to about being “crushed” by Walmart or Amazon, but the truth is, those companies got big by delivering what consumers want. If to do that Amazon “undercuts competitors . . . ruthlessly and squeezes suppliers . . . brutally,” says Nocera, then we must all be ruthless and brutal because we’re not going to boycott Amazon any time soon.

 

 

How to Conduct the Exercise

In a Reply below this post, identify the three summaries as

  • Fair and Accurate
  • Inaccurate
  • Unfair

Offer comments to support your claims of Inaccuracy and Unfairness. For example:

SUMMARY 1–UNFAIR
The author of the paragraph deliberately attributes to Mukherjee statements he did not make. His assertion that Mukherjee would support a total ban on travel from epidemic countries is clearly not supported by the original article.

SUMMARY 2—FAIR AND ACCURATE
No comments required.

SUMMARY 3—INACCURATE
The author of the paragraph wrongly reports the meaning of the word “quarantine,” which completely taints the analysis of everything else in his reaction to Mukherjee’s article. He also makes errors of fact regarding the technique of screening for Ebola.

Time Limit: 30 minutes.

About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels. www.davidbdale.wordpress.com
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17 Responses to Unfair Summary TR

  1. mica1comp says:

    SUMMARY 1 – inaccurate
    The author of this summary misquotes Nocera and does not seem to follow Nocrea’s point of view on amazon. For example Nocera explains he does not agree with what Amazon is doing to the book business; and he states“As an author, I’m rooting for Hachette.” But the author of the summary judges Nocera for being an author and still defending Amazon-which is inaccurate.
    SUMMARY 2 – unfair
    The author of this summary makes statements that can not be defined as anything else but unfair. For example the first sentence. Also “Nocera is clearly rooting for Jeff Bezos as the digital competitor to Walton, who in encroaching on Amazon’s core business.”
    SUMMARY 3 – fair
    no comments required.

    Like

  2. tiger1comp says:

    Summary 1-Fair and accurate
    No comments required.

    Summary 2-Inaccurate
    This summary doesn’t really represent views in the original article. The article uses Nocera’s words to create the argument about Amazons publishers and outside publishers.

    Summary 3- Unfair
    The author of Summary 3 wrongly states Nocera is sticking up for Walmart and Amazon. Nocera even states in the end that he on the side of Hachette. He simply states the background facts about the corporations. The author backs up the Amazons tactics to lower prices with the same tactics from Walmart. Thus, creating the two rights make a wrong logical fallacy. Furthermore, the author unfairly cites Nocera using lines from different paragraphs and putting them together. The mention of Amazons dark side leads the reader to believe Nocera is against the capitalistic business practices.

    Like

  3. kai1comp says:

    Summary 1-Unfair
    The quotes in the article are taken out of context without the explanations making his comments seem much more radical.

    Summary 2- Inaccurate
    The quote about the antitrust laws is misused and taken out fo context. It creates misconception of what Nocera is trying to convey.

    Summary 3-Fair and Accurate
    No comment required.

    Like

  4. ovechkin1comp says:

    Summary 1-Unfair
    The author is clearly against Joe Nocera, and clearly attempts to make Nocera look bad by misquoting him. The author argues that Nocera agrees with Amazon for it’s business practices, when he merely just defends it’s capitalistic practices. The author also misquotes Nocera by saying, “he comes to the additional, equally ridiculous conclusion, that the company that commands nearly half of America’s book sales, cannot in any “legitimate” way, “be called a monopoly.”” Nocera doesn’t actually say these quotes, he rather states the conclusion that Annie Lowrey and Matthew Yglesias make in their respective magazines. The author intentionally takes quotes out of context to convey their argument, which is unfair.

    Summary 2-Fair/Accurate
    No comment needed

    Summary 3-Inaccurate
    Although the third summary appears to be good because it supports Nocera, the quotes are inaccurate, and out of context. The author often uses elipses to condenses quotes, but loses the meaning of Nocera. For example, “yes, it does . . . it is giving people what they want . . . the nature of capitalism.” Nocera says that the “dark side” of amazon is the treatment of the warehouse workers, not “giving what people want.” The author attempts to support Nocera, but inaccurately quotes him, losing any credibility.

    Like

  5. velociraptor1comp says:

    Summary 1: Unfair ; To begin with, this summary includes nothing about Walmart, which is mentioned several times in the original. Also this author is also disagreeing with amazon’s buisness, which the original article is supporting. Nocera is misquoted regarding Amazon violating the antitrust laws. Nocera provides evidence that amazon isnt a monopoly but the author of the summary insists it is.
    Summary 2; Inaccurate ; The author of the summary misunderstands the purpose of Joe Nocera’s original article. This summary also misquotes Nocera.
    Summary 3: Fair and Accurate ; no comments required

    Like

  6. dean1comp says:

    Summary 1: Unfair
    The author clearly just attacks the article and the writer as a whole. He says that “Nocera defends Amazon’s practice of punishing rival publisher Hachette by, in Franklin Foer’s words ‘putting its books at a disadvantage on its website compared with other publishers’ books'” meanwhile in the original article Nocera clearly state that he is rooting for Hachette.
    Summary 2: Inaccurate
    This summary isn’t really about anything in the original article, and eh clearly misunderstood.
    Summary 3: Fair and Accurate
    No comments required.

    Like

  7. bloo1comp says:

    Summary 1-Fair and Accurate
    No comments required

    Summary 2- Unfair
    The author of this paragraph deliberately attributes to Nocera disingenuous assertions. It says he “must be working on a book deal with Amazon.” and that’s the only possible explanation for his defense of the company. He slanders him again when he suggests what Nocera thinks customer service means.

    Summary 3- Inaccurate
    The author of this paragraph wrongly reports statements allegedly made by Nocera. It claims he’s “clearly a champion of lower prices for consumers no matter who gets crushed in the process.” Also, nowhere does Nocera say “we must all be ruthless and brutal because we’re not going to boycott Amazon anytime soon.”

    Like

  8. greentwinky1comp says:

    SUMMARY 1 – FAIR
    No comment required.

    SUMMARY 2 – INACCURATE
    This interpretation is completely wrong. It claims that in the article, “Nocera clearly perceives the quality difference between Amazon’s e-books and those of other publishers,” which is not true. This is never stated, the author of the summary merely assumes this. Also, it claims that “Nocera is clearly rooting for Jeff Bezos,” when he expresses no opinon on this topic whatsoever.

    SUMMARY 3 – UNFAIR
    This summary very obviously misquotes the article. It claims that “Nocera admits Amazon is ‘punishing Hachette,'” which is a quote from Foer, not Nocera. It is not necessarily his opinion, so it is completely unfair to state this. Also, it leaves out important information from the quote “Does Amazon have a dark side? Yes, it does…it is giving people what they want…the nature of capitalism.” This quoting conveniently leaves out a very important part of what Nocera actually says, which is that stopping Amazon just “because it is giving people what they want is to misunderstand the nature of capitalism.” This misquoting is completely unfair to Nocera.

    Like

  9. sparky1comp says:

    Summary 1- Inaccurate
    The author of the paragraph miss quotes and states information that was not in the original article. such as the quote “company’s 1st-Amendment-protected products is a clear violation of the freedom of speech.”

    Summary 2- Unfair
    The author of this paragraph has the correct information but mis understands the meaning and use of it . “Amazon is in clear violation of the country’s antitrust laws,” it’s just good book business, right Joe? I believe he used this quote in the wrong context.

    Summary 3- Fair and Accurate

    Like

  10. giantsfan1comp says:

    Summary 1: Inaccurate
    The author of the summary takes some of Nocera’s comments and cites them correctly. However, there are many parts of this summary that are cited incorrectly which makes this an inaccurate summary rather than an unfair one.

    Summary 2: Unfair
    There are many statements that are made in the original text that are altered or completely made up in the summary. Throughout the summary, there are many times in which Nocera’s text is blown out of proportion. The first statement of the summary concludes that Joe Nocera is working for Amazon, which is not true at all. In fact, he is just an author who supports Amazon and there way of business.

    Summary 3: Fair and Accurate
    No comments required.

    Like

  11. perry1comp says:

    SUMMARY 1-INACCURATE
    The very definition of a monopoly means complete control of the market. The author inaccurately criticizes Joe Nocera for claiming Amazon is not a monopoly. If the company owns less than half of the market, they cannot be a monopoly. The author of the paragraph fails to develop an accurate summary by misunderstanding the issues discussed in the original article. Nocera never writes that constitutional rights do not matter, but the paragraph author argues that they do no matter to him. In fact, the primary purpose of a business is to create profit. We are unable to punish companies for using their own developments to further their own profits. Amazon welcomes outside sellers, and it is not their fault they cannot compete.

    SUMMARY 2-UNFAIR
    The author of the paragraph mistakes the meaning behind almost every sentence Joe Nocera writes. Nocera is unfairly assigned reasons as to why he is defending Amazon while also attacking “third rate” works. In today’s age, society wants the best product for the lowest price. Nocera sides with Amazon because they are satisfying the want and need of society. It is unfair for the paragraph author to criticize Nocera for pointing out Amazon’s clear customer service advantage.

    SUMMARY 3-FAIR AND ACCURATE
    no comments required.

    Like

  12. garwin1comp says:

    Summary 1 – Inaccurate
    The author of the summary quickly critics Nocera for being an author and defending Amazon, but in one of Nocera’s final paragraphs, he clearly states “As an author, I’m rooting for Hachette.” The author seems to misunderstand Nocera’s point of view on Amazon; Nocera does not believe Amazon is a monopoly or violating any laws, but because he is an author, he does not fully agree with what they do in the book business.

    Summary 2 – Unfair
    In the original, Nocera says “What he doesn’t say – because he can’t – is that Amazon is in clear violation of the country’s antitrust laws” , but the author of the summary selectively deleted a vital part of the sentence and says “After all, even though “Amazon is in clear violation of the country’s antitrust laws,” it’s just good book business, right Joe?” The author takes Nocera’s words out of context and assumes things that have no valid support from the original.

    Summary 3 – Fair and Accurate
    No comments required.

    Like

  13. jaime1comp says:

    Summary 1-Fair and Accurate
    No comments required
    Summary 2- Unfair
    The author uses quotes out of context then attributes the quotes to opinions Nocera does not express in the original article. The author fails failed to point out that Nocera offers evidence of the fact Amazon cannot be a monopoly and the quote used during the last sentence is completely out of context and Nocera never supports that Amazon is actually breaking any anti-trust laws.
    Summary 3- Inaccurate
    The author attributes opinions and idea to Nocera that are not explicitly stated or expressed in the original article. The author also picks out certain sections of quotes and manipulates them so that the quotes now line up with the author’s own opinion. He does not give any context to the quotes and only picks out certain words, pasting together his own quotes out of what Nocera originally stated. The author does not use one full actual sentence from Nocera’s article, the author just uses pieces and words.

    Like

  14. eagles1comp says:

    SUMMARY 1- UNFAIR
    The author of the paragraph deliberately attacks Amazon saying the practice in punishing rival editor which is not Amazons intentions at all. His assertion that antitrust law protects the people and not the companies is misunderstood.

    SUMMARY 2- The author wrongly inserts that Amazon is in clear violation of the antitrust laws when Joe Nocera says that “he cant say” Amazon is in violation of the laws.

    SUMMARY 3- FAIR AND ACCURATE
    No comments required.

    Like

  15. syntaxattack1comp says:

    Summary 1-Inaccurate

    This Summary is an example of an inaccurate citation. The writer takes the authors words from context, but doesn’t always keep their original meaning. In the sentence “He defends Amazon on the flimsy pretext that they aren’t, at least technically, well not entirely, “in clear violation of the country’s antitrust laws.”,” the writer quotes a section of the article that has a completely opposite meaning. The writer does however cite some sections correctly making this an inaccurate citation, rather than an unfair one.

    Summary 2-Fair

    Summary 2 is an example of a fair citation. The writer uses the original authors words in the correct context to support their argument. In the sentence “If “Walmart has squashed many more small competitors than Amazon ever will,” maybe Amazon can be excused for squashing Hachette, with “nary a peep from the antitrust police.”,” he uses the authors words to show their inaccuracy, while still keeping the original meaning in tact.

    Summary 3-Unfair

    Summary 3 is an example of an unfair citation. The writer takes the original author’s words, and pieces them together to mean something completely different. For example, the quote “Does Amazon have a dark side? Yes, it does . . . it is giving people what they want . . . the nature of capitalism.” comes from three different paragraphs in the text, and although they are the authors words, without the right context, their meaning has been altered completely.

    Like

  16. bagofchips1comp says:

    SUMMARY 1 – UNFAIR
    The author of this piece makes the assumption that a constitutional violation doesn’t matter to Nocera, as well as also assuming that Nocera is “addicted to cheap e-books.”
    The paragraph also ends in an unnecessary comment reading, “I hope he [Nocera] never gets another book advance.”

    SUMMARY 2 – INACCURATE
    The author of this paragraph is under the assumption that Nocera is defending both Amazon and Walmart. This piece also misquotes Nocera when it says, “If to do that Amazon ‘undercuts competitors . . . ruthlessly and squeezes suppliers . . . brutally,’ says Nocera”.

    SUMMARY 3 – FAIR AND ACCURATE
    No comments required.

    Like

  17. Domia abr Wyrda says:

    SUMMARY 1 UNFAIR
    The author clearly misunderstands the issue, Americas antitrust laws only protect the american people not companies. Many of the quotes used by the author are taken for face value while in the article they are clearly used as rhetoric, [putting its books at a disadvantage on its website compared with other publishers’ books.]. This quote should not even be attributed to Nocera as it is used to describe an article by Franklin Foer, which is almost immediately countered.

    SUMMARY 2 Inaccurate
    This statement is mis-quoted, [After all, even though “Amazon is in clear violation of the country’s antitrust laws,” it’s just good book business, right Joe?]
    Actual quote, [What he doesn’t say — because he can’t — is that Amazon is in clear violation of the country’s antitrust laws.]
    The author deliberately took part of a larger quote and edited it to have a different meaning.

    SUMMARY 3 Fair and Accurate
    No comments required.

    Like

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