Audit Notes: Amazon watch, the Capitalist Tool, WSJ and Pinochet

NYT finds the dominant bookseller reining in the discounts in some areas

Amazon has long employed predatory pricing to establish market dominance.

And in Monopoly 101, cornering a market allows you to jack up prices.

So it’s good that The New York Times is keeping an eye on Amazon, writing that the Seattle giant has been raising prices for some niches of the book industry, including “scholarly and small-press books”:

Amazon sells about one in four printed books, according to industry estimates, a level of market domination with little precedent in the book trade.

It is an achievement built on superior customer service, a vast range of titles and, most of all, rock-bottom prices that no physical store could hope to match. Even as Amazon became one of the largest retailers in the country, it never seemed interested in charging enough to make a profit. Customers celebrated and the competition languished.

Now, with Borders dead, Barnes & Noble struggling and independent booksellers greatly diminished, for many consumers there is simply no other way to get many books than through Amazon. And for some books, Amazon is, in effect, beginning to raise prices.

— I don’t understand why publishers like to hand over their opinion pages to other publishers who have their own.

The Wall Street Journal likes to print New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman’s half-coherent ramblings.

And USA Today last week gave valuable real estate to Forbes CEO Steve Forbes—a real Capitalist Tool in more ways than one—who tosses off a column headlined, “Focus on economy, not climate.”

Surprise, surprise: Forbes thinks we need to forget about environmental regulations and the like and ramp up the oil-burnin’!

The guy owns a magazine, and he runs his thoughts in it every issue. Free up the USA Today space for someone who doesn’t own a press.

— Speaking of the WSJ, that wretched page called last week (on the 4th of July!) for Egypt to get a murderous dictator to clean things up a bit:

Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, who took over power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.

The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly shreds them:

Presumably, this means that those who speak for the Wall Street Journal - the editorial was unsigned - think Egypt should think itself lucky if its ruling generals now preside over a 17-year reign of terror. I also take it the WSJ means us to associate two governments removed by generals - the one led by Salvador Allende in Chile and the one led by Mohamed Morsi in Egypt. Islamist, socialist … elected, legitimate … who cares?

Presumably, the WSJ thinks the Egyptians now have 17 years in which to think themselves lucky when any who dissent are tortured with electricity, raped, thrown from planes or - if they’re really lucky - just shot. That’s what happened in Chile after 1973, causing the deaths of between 1,000 and 3,000 people. Around 30,000 were tortured…

Presumably, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board believes that because Pinochet “hired free-market reformers”, he should be excused the excesses of a few death squads. That is, presumably, why they think a business-friendly cold killer in the Pinochet mold is who Egyptians need now to manage their “transition to democracy”.

But really, I’m at a loss. There must be some sort of justification for such a statement. I just haven’t the slightest clue what it is.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,