Havalais (2013) propose that search engines are attractive to consumers as they use the least amount of attention to obtain information. Compared to other primitive websites, Amazon’s clean interface and intuitive search bar allowed it to become the most popular search engine for books.
By extension, Klaus (2013) argues that Amazon’s easy to use interface and impeccable customer service fosters a sense of familiarity and trust, as well as the convenience of One Click reliable orders and fast delivery services.
Data from the Association of American Publishers, in 2008, after the introduction of the Kindle, Amazon’s e-reader device, led to a rise of 117% in e-book sales and drop of 18.6% in print books (AAP, 2017) which has led to the demise of many brick-and-mortar and independent bookstores.
Although Amazon’s online business model not new, Amazon’s dominance in the realm of book retailing has economically disrupted the publishing industry.
Empirical research by Greeve and Song (2017) found that customer reviews on Amazon were valued more highly than those of critics when deciding to purchase books. Book publishers were prized by authors on their connections to bookstores and marketing resources. However Amazon introduced self-publishing features which offered the marketing use of their website at low-cost and high royalties.
In 2014, a third of Kindle Bestsellers were by self-published authors, thus changing the dynamic between authors and publishers. The above factors show how Amazon has disrupted how authors, consumers, suppliers relate in book sales and the traditional systems in place. In particular, reducing the need of publishing houses and increasing dependency of authors on Amazon.
Video by Emeka Ossai on YouTube; Creative Commons 3.0
In 2016, Amazon ranked 1st in Global RepTrak Top 100 most reputable companies, ahead of competitors such as Netflix, Apple and eBay (Reputation Institute, 2018) and recent public surveys associate Amazon with adjectives such as modern, likeable, innovative and creative (Statistica, 2017).
The success of Amazon’s e-books delivery services is attributed to Bezos’s race for faster innovation and no tolerance for failure. Despite, its positive reputation, Amazon has been under critique for its unfair treatment of its employees and has directly changed how Amazon relates socially with its suppliers and employees Chan (2015, p. 17).
A core element of Amazon is its Fulfilment Centre a large scale distribution center, where employees pack orders for delivery.
“Amazon was also quite stingy when it came to installing an air-conditioner as well. “In one famous incident, Amazon hired paramedics to revive heat-sick employees at a Pennsylvania warehouse rather than buy an air-conditioning unit” (Foer, 2014, as cited in Chan, 2015, p.18)
However, through exemplary customer service, Amazon changed customer’s expectations, towards expecting premium service for low cost (Chan, 2017). Henkel and Colleagues (2018) found that if monetary maximization is the goal of the consumer, which is often the case when shopping on Amazon, that consumers dehumaised employee experiences.
For example, consumers viewed employees as a ‘means to an end’ and were more likely to disregard their feelings of pain or sadness. Moreover, the authors found that this dehumanizing effect could be elicited if a brand is positioned to be thrift-orientated (Study 1, Henkel et al., 2018), which matches Amazon’s description.
Lastly, Amazon’s leveraged its economic dominance to sway political and consumer decisions. In some US states and Australia, Amazon requires its customer’s to pay a sales tax upon check-out online (Baugh, Ben-David & Park, 2018). This post-checkout tax is another tactic to reduce costs.
“In 2012, Amazon surrounded in Texas, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tennesee, negotiating accommodation that allowed it to stat tax-free for a few more years in exchange for putting a new fulfilment centre in each state” demonstrating Amazon’s political influence (Stone, 2013, p.200)
Amazon’s threat to competition in all retail categories, not just books and publishing, has instigated uproar regarding antitrust laws. Khan (2017) argues that current antitrust law is inadequate to address competition in modern business and internet. Khan (2017) anticipates that future anti-trust law will address harms against supplies and producers and not just against consumer interests, as a result, may leave Amazon vulnerable.
Overall, Amazon has led internet transformation in online retailing and has transformed the book and publishing industry. By positioning itself as the dominant search engine for books and other commodities, Amazon was able to become an economic powerhouse. However, in the strive for innovation, Amazon has been met with negative social and political repercussions. Amazon will continue to disrupt online retail and through its networked relationships will continue to innovate various industries.