Digital Shoplifting and Amazon's Price Check App...
I'm a bit puzzled over the latest firestorm with Amazon. At issue is the company's release of a Price Check app for smartphones. The app is yet another price-comparison shopping tool out of dozens already out there, but what's generating buzz is that Amazon is publicly encouraging users to go into physical bricks-and-mortar stores and scan barcodes by offering an extra 5 percent off purchases, up to $5, so that users can see if Amazon offers the same product at a cheaper price.
What's the big deal? Well, none other than the Wall Street Journal has labeled this "Information-Age Shoplifting". The New York Times joined the chorus as well, pointing that although Amazon's campaign was geared more against Wal-Mart and Best Buy, it incited a monster backlash from small independent bookstores.
Apparently, many prominent authors (who, by the way, earn considerable income from Amazon sales) were also dismayed by the app, describing it as "scorched-earth capitalism" that would turn users into "Droid-packing spies" and would ultimately "further devalue, as a cultural and human necessity, the book itself".
Great material. That's why they're writers.
But am I missing something here? This is just a price-comparison tool, and there are so many out there, and they've been around for so many years, what's the issue? Is it simply that Amazon is (gasp!) offering an incentive for people to actually use their software? That hardly seems worth all the commotion.
I'm a big proponent of small, local, independent retailers. But the role they play in fostering real-life communities and culture is not mortally threatened by this one schmucky app; it's under threat by a myriad of forces occurring over a several-decades-long time span. And, yes, I realize that Amazon isn't exactly a countervailing force in that movement. But this is not doomsday.