L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

16 April 2009 Blog Home : April 2009 : Permalink

Follow Up 2 - #amazonfail (but not #sorryamazon)

So they weren't in fact trolled or hacked - it was a cock up by an employee. However I think my comments on Amazon's scalability and monopoly problems still stand.

Firstly on the scalability issue. It is pretty clear from some of the reporting - e.g.the first link above - that Amazon's smooth front end conceals the software equivalent of a number of Heath Robinson devices held together with Duct tape. It is to be hoped that the fall out from this affair will involve a radical redsign but I doubt it because
  1. it will be very long and difficult
  2. they think they dodged the bullet in PR terms
This is in fact pretty much what Mike Daisey says here where he also brings up the monoply issue:

More interesting is that everyone in publishing entrusts their rankings and status to a single provider. That's the story no one likes thinking about in publishing.

Indeed it isn't just publishing as Barron's reports Amazon is responsible for about a third of all online eCommerce in the US. This is why Amazon needs to think carefully about how to react to this sort of thing in the future. Amazon currently is pretty cavalier about these sorts of issues and believes that they will get forgotten about. That may be true of each specific case but each one of these hits erodes the Amazon's reputation with its customers. After enough erosion we could easily see some other competitor (or competitors) arise to take market share away just as fast as Amazon gained it in the first place. I don't think there's any point in expecting the publishers to do this themselves - going on the ebook thing the one thing you can be sure of is that the publishers have innovative spirit as a sedimentary rock - but I expect someone else will because the more of these things we see the more vulnerable Amazon becomes to more agile competition with less of a hacked together website.