Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Can Terminator Battle Amazon?
The resurrected Terminator movie series reminds us that in the near future, humanity will battle machines for planetary survival. Robot supremacy is supposed to rule the world – unless humans with the help of robots from the future -- can save it for people. As the futuristic scenario plays out on big screens across America, the real battle has already begun. In fact, the war of digital vs. paper and Internet vs. brick and mortar, is about to enter its third decade.
July 15 marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of Amazon, now the world’s biggest e-commerce site, a title it has held for a long time. Amazon is looking to take over the world much the way robots seek to do in the Terminator series. Slowly but steadily, Amazon grows market share in all the sectors it is in, from publishing and cloud space to television, movies, diapers, and other products. Amazon is actually making use of robots in warehouses, drones for deliveries, and computers for the marketing and selling of over 75 billion dollars worth of goods this year.
For book publishing, Amazon has won. It sells more e-books than anyone. It sells more books overall than anyone. It publishes and self-publishes as well. It’s opening up retail outlets on college campuses to sell books and other items. We need a force from the future to come back to the present to minimize Amazon’s gigantic impact on the industry.
The book industry cannot lose the battle against technology. It embraces e-books and rightfully so. It just doesn’t want to do it at the full expense of print books. Print books in stores is what publishing needs. Stores showcase books, bring about impulse buys, and provide a forum for author appearances. If everything gets sold digitally or the product is digital-only, the book industry will retract.
This is a cautionary tale for other industries and aspects of society. We can’t be too quick to embrace all things technology, as we displace workers, industries, and ways of life. We want progress to come, but at a certain pace and cost. The old ways weren’t/aren’t perfect, but neither are the new ways. All advance bring about setbacks and new problems. But if things change too quickly, too permanently, we lose out on the way things had been, for better or worse.
I’m not a technophobe, just a purist. I believe in a physical society, where we touch things, speak to one another, and read physical books. But I do value the speed, reach, and creativity that the Internet and smartphones provide us.
We just need a happy balance, otherwise it’s Terminator vs. Amazon – and only one can win!
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