Diplomacy in Action: State Department Sides with Amazon

June 15th, 2012

I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried:

Diplomacy In Action

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Amazon.com Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos will announce the global launch of the Kindle Mobile Learning Initiative on June 20, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. in the Ben Franklin Room at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. This public-private partnership with Amazon.com and the U.S. government will create a global e-reader program that introduces aspects of U.S. society and culture directly to young people, students, and international audiences in new ways and expands English language learning opportunities worldwide.

The correct context for the above announcement is the following:

“the Amazon Kindle…is a closed, proprietary system”


Yesterday the American Booksellers Association (ABA) submitted its official response to the Department of Justice (DOJ). No surprise: Amazon comes in for extensive criticism:

  • We believe that the Agency Model corrects a distortion in the market fostered primarily by Amazon.com, which, if uncorrected, will reduce or eliminate competition both on the publishing level and at the distribution level.
  • Before the adoption of the agency model for e-book sales, indie bookstores were concerned that Amazon had a 90 percent share of the growing e-book market, and that this one retailer was selling e-books at a price far lower than indie stores could even purchase these e-books for resale.
  • Essentially, e-books sold by indie bookstores can be read on every device except the Amazon Kindle, which is a closed, proprietary system.
  • …there is a significant danger that Amazon will again regain a monopoly share in the sale of e-books…
  • The situation is even less competitive for customers who read e-books on an Amazon Kindle device…
  • …we believe that Amazon is a much more dangerous industry participant than the publishers or any other retailers….
  • …Amazon…is a classic free-rider…
  • …state governments have subsidized Amazon with sales taxes avoidance….

Um, aside from that, what does the ABA think about Amazon?

Could this announcement from the State Department be any more inappropriately timed? No, I don’t think so.

Thanks to Laura Hazard Owen for the tip.

June 18: State Department postpones Kindle press conference.

August 17: State Department cancels $16.5M Kindle contract.