Amazon’s Kindle Is Too Complicated and Greedy

Kindle instructs customers: “From the left panel on the Home screen, tap Books, Newsstand, or Audiobooks, or tap the icon from the app grid or carousel to view specific content in your Kindle Library. Tap a title to download it to your phone. Note: Content already downloaded to your phone will have a checkmark on it.”  This is TOTALLY USELESS!!!  Per my wife: Instead, tap on the upper left-hand corner, then tap on the three lines there.

Then, if you want to buy the book, Amazon’s software gets in the way again. HOW STUPID!!!  My wife is a very capable iPad user but even she can’t outwit Amazon’s dopey setup.

Launch the Kindle app on your iPhone or iPad. Tap Library to see all of the e-books in your Amazon library. Tap the book you wish to download onto your device. When it’s finished downloading (it will have a checkmark next to it), tap the book to open it.

We wanted to purchase the Kindle book “None of My Business” by P.J. O’Rourke, but instead, Amazon sold us a vocal version. Huh??!! And we wanted to purchase the Kindle book “Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy Book 1)” but instead Amazon sent us (Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy Book 2)”.

It took us considerable time on the phone with Amazon’s Customer Service to straighten out these messes and get refunds. Shame on Amazon!

Facebook Enters E-Commerce Business

It had to happen. As the tech giants continue to grow, they start to overlap each other, simply because there are just not that many giant markets that they can pursue. In this case, it is Facebook invading Amazon’s e-commerce territory with its new “Shops” e-commerce service. It is useful to remember that a big chunk of Amazon’s revenue comes from third-party sellers. These sellers are mostly small, and they can now set up their own e-commerce on Facebook or Instagram.

The founder, CEO, and president of online retail company Amazon, Jeff Bezos has been the world’s richest person since 2017 and was named the “richest man in modern history” after his net worth increased to $150 billion in July 2018. He may not be personally responsible for using data about third-party sellers on the Amazon platform to develop competing products. But people he has hired are responsible for such actions.

Fake Products on Amazon

We have used a Philips Norelco electric shaver that we had bought at Costco off and on for years. (When we didn’t use it, we shaved with various one/two/three/four-blade models, which gave closer shaves. But the convenience and absence of cuts of an electric razor, especially when traveling, makes it practical.) Like any cutting tool, it needs to be sharpened or have its cutting surfaces replaced. Philips Norelco recommends that the shaving heads be replaced every year at the cost of $30. If you search Amazon with a “Norelco-replacement-heads” phrase, you get a plethora of products with a wide range of prices ($14-70), many of them without packaging. The same situation exists for a wide range of products sold by Amazon. Fortunately, there are some companies that are fighting back.

Tech Giants Too Powerful, Need Policing

The famous quote from Lord Acton—“Absolute power corrupts absolutely”—is a good guide to compiling a list of the companies that are likely to need policing. The list is pretty short—Amazon, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Twitter, and Uber (perhaps). And the effect on humankind (especially children) is pretty severe. Amazon is now so large and powerful that it is in danger of being prosecuted under the antitrust laws.

And Facebook and Google make bags of money from advertisers, and have a continuing series of privacy violations.

Fortunately, a handful of Silicon Valley notables have become activist vigilantes. And they are aiming at kids to use their smartphones for healthy purposes rather than wasting time on useless social apps.

Needless Tech Giants’ Hiring Worsens Silicon Valley Housing Shortages and Traffic Jams

We have twice before posted strong pleas for the giant tech companies—especially Alphabet/Google/YouTube, Apple, and Facebook—to stop expanding their Silicon Valley facilities rather than creating/expanding sizable operations in other cities. They’re mostly software companies, which could be located anyplace with high-speed data transmission capabilities!!! Are these companies afflicted by cases of hubris?

We wonder why all those cities who were campaigning for the Amazon HQ2 aren’t similarly campaigning for expansions of other tech giants.

We also wonder why Silicon Valley communities have not been able to either (1) extract enough money from these companies to compensate the many victims (long commutes, wasted time in traffic jams, inability to find housing, homelessness, etc., or (2) tax the companies so much that it makes it uneconomic to expand there.

Other organizations that are keeping up the good fight include the San Francisco Peninsula Resident Association.

Increasing Overlap of Tech Giants

Question: When you’ve joined the $100+ billion market cap club, what do you do next? Answer: You start invading the other members’ territories (e.g., Amazon is now chasing the digital advertising business that Facebook and Google make billions of dollars from) AND you hire a bunch of pricey lawyers to defend you against antitrust suits.

This club is pretty exclusive today, with American members including mainly Alphabet/Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Netflix. They are so big that to grow significantly they have to look for other big markets (like cloud computing or self-driving cars or Hollywood-type movies) to enter, and most of those big markets are already occupied by other club members or non-member already-large specialists. What are the bloopers here? A classical one would be monopoly/oligopoly pricing and/or restraint of trade. But perhaps more important might be the opportunities lost by a failure to allocate capital to creating useful NEW-AND-DIFFERENT products and services.

One Less Big Tech Company to Pile Into Already-Overcrowded Silicon Valley

The good news today is that Amazon will NOT locate its second headquarters (with up to 50,000 people) in the Bay area. So San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo will get his wish. This is a welcome change from past practices by Silicon Valley cities, when city councils have welcomed large, tax-paying companies despite the downsides of their new presence.

Every day Silicon Valley denizens read about high-and-rising house prices and apartment rental rates, traffic jams and ever-longer commutes, and other phenomena caused by the irrational decision-makers at the likes of Adobe, Amazon, Facebook, and Google … AND local city council members with dollar signs in their eyes. We have lobbied for regionalization to spread the employees and economic benefits more evenly across the country, for thoughtful consideration of ALL aspects of the situation (including housing and traffic flow), for thoughtful consideration of ALL aspects of the situation (including housing and traffic flow), and to grow their Silicon Valley operations at sensible rates.

Unfortunate but Unsurprising Suboptimization in Silicon Valley

Don’t Google and Amazon Read Businessweek? At least Google has the excuse that they were born and grew up in Silicon Valley and have always lived here. So it may be instinctive for them to keep on wanting to out-Silicon-Valley Silicon Valley. As for Amazon, Jeff Bezos’ historically bare bones operating philosophy has apparently changed if he now wants to pay big bucks for the facilities and staff in Silicon Valley.

Even worse, no other than the CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group who was just given accolades by the San Jose Mercury News may be one of the villains. Although Carl Guardino wants to “exorcise the twin demons of housing shortages and traffic jams” he appears to be focusing only on the traffic jams part. (This, in turn, may be due to the fact that he commutes to work by bike 17 miles each way, from tony Monte Sereno to the airport. He may actually get to work faster that way than by car, but Google Maps shows one hour and twenty minutes, though there are fortunately two alternatives that are trails. The third is via an expressway, which is not cyclist-friendly.) He apparently expects somebody else to deal with the housing shortage, a poignant example of suboptimization. (Interestingly, the definer of suboptimization is a San Joe State professor, who no doubt has lots of local examples to cite.) Apparently HE thinks that having fast transportation allows people to live farther away, where housing is affordable. WE think that the proposed “Google transit village” (that puts 20,000 Google employees in offices adjacent to Diridon Station) will be a nightmare because it puts too many eggs in one basket. And if you want to know what Silicon Valley residents REALLY think, have a look at the Comments accompanying the article about Carl Guardino.

Another consideration is that past experience regarding the preferences of high-tech company employees is that managers have families and prefer to live toward the San Jose end so they can have grass to play on, whereas single guys writing code prefer to live in San Francisco so they can party. Where will the party scene shift to? Will hungover software engineers want to commute from San Francisco to Diridon Station on BART? And can their bosses afford to live in closer proximity to Diridon Station? Houses in nearby Sunnyvale are selling for nearly $800,000 over their asking prices.

What about Amazon? While those with vested interests—politicians, city planners, tax assessors, etc.—are positive, knowledgeable local residents (and newspaper columnists) are not. Maybe Amazon’s own planners and cost accountants will horrify Jeff Bezos so much that he will choose some other city on the Businessweek pictogram who will appreciate him more and charge him less. Or maybe he will get creative with a twist like the giant factory towns in China, which have dormitories and apartments and stores, and propose to build giant apartment buildings to overcome the housing and traffic challenges.

Sears Roebuck Invented Mail Order, but Amazon Ate Its Lunch, and Now Brick & Mortar Retail Suffers

Sears Roebuck was a hot stock when it held its IPO in 1906, and ninety years later its shares had grown 434,552 percent. But by 1973, when it opened the Sears Tower (at that time the tallest building in the world), it apparently had lost all or most of its entrepreneurial instrincts, and it let Amazon get started in 1994 and overtake it, apparently without any counter-offensive.

But Sears isn’t the only retailer who missed the resolutionary changes in retailing. Most department store chains are suffering from changes in people’s tastes and how and where they shop. And many shopping malls are shadows of their former selves. It will be very interesting to see if Amazon can innovate in the grocery category.