Posts tagged ‘amazon’

Who is the Tax Evader?

Kevin Drum, referencing an article by Christopher Caldwell, says

What is's biggest advantage over its competition? One-click ordering? The ability to go shopping in your pajamas? Its enormous selection? Those all play a role, but Christopher Caldwell thinks the real answer is the fact that Amazon's customers mostly don't have to pay state sales tax...

The latest state to insist that Amazon collect state sales taxes is California. Amazon's response? As in Illinois, they summarily severed the contracts of every one of its affiliates in the Golden State. But that's not all. Like mafia goons going to the mattresses in a gang war, Amazon immediately announced that it would spend millions of dollars to place a referendum on the ballot to nullify the new California law. And in the meantime? Law or no law, they won't be collecting sales tax in California, and that's that.

Amazon customers do have to pay sales taxes, or the substitute in states called a use tax.  So the wording in the post in technically incorrect.  The correct statement is that Amazon does not have to collect the taxes as an agent of the state.

Both Mr. Drum and Mr. Caldwell are likely required by their state to report out of state purchases from online suppliers and pay taxes on these purchases.  Most people don't do it, and I would bet that both Drum and Caldwell do not.  If I am wrong, Mr. Drum is welcome to post a copy of his return.  Otherwise, he and Caldwell are the ones illegally evading taxes, not Amazon.

Clarification: I personally couldn't give a rip about these gentlemen evading taxes the government chooses not to enforce.  Join the ranks of tax protesters, guys!  The point of the post is hypocrisy.

New Kindle?

Via Engadget:

Looks like the rumor of a new larger Kindle is true. Amazon just sent us an invitation to a press conference scheduled for Wednesday, May 6 at 10:30am ET. You know what Amazon does at press events? It launches new Kindles!

As noted by Peter Kafka over at All Things Digital, the location of the Amazon event -- Pace University -- is the historic, 19th century HQ to the New York Times which is said to be partnering with Amazon on the larger Kindle. That makes for a perfect symbolic bridge from old to new media. We'll have to wait and see if newspaper subscribers can be lured across.

I was an early Kindle adopter and love my Kindle 2.  My only complaint is the lack of electronic versions of a lot of older books I would like to read (example -- various James Clavell novels) but I am hoping this is similar to the early phase of CD's and DVD's when publishers had not yet seen the market or had the time to convert older music and movies to the new media.

Price and Value

I am an early-adopter of the Amazon Kindle and must say that I have been thrilled with it, despite a number of design flaws I hope to see fixed in the new version.  Most of my complaints have to do with industrial design, not with the feature set  (from an industrial design scale where iPod=10 and the original MS Vista packaging =0, the Kindle and its case were about a 4.)

I was perusing a number of "reviews" of the Kindle 2 today.  Pre-release reviews can have a really wide spread, as they tend to be populated either by insiders who are trying to promote the product, or by folks who haven't used the product but have some problem with its basic concept (or manufacturer) they want to vent on.  Which makes pre-release reviews worthless.

One such person in the second category is "Bohemian," who seems to want to vent on Kindle because it is not open source, DRM-free, etc.  He is also upset that it does not have built-in solar power, lol.  But the line that really caught my eye is this one:

Overpriced - should be around $100

That is hilarious to me.  The Kindle has been absolutely sold out (at the current price of $300-$400) for months and months.  There is a waiting list, particularly since Oprah recommend it.  So how is the price too high?  My take on it would be the price is too low, since even at $359 demand is exceeding supply.

This is a common mistake by people across the political spectrum -- mistaking one's own personal assessment of value with what a price "should" be.  The correct statement for this review would have been "I would not pay more than $100 for this product."  And in a free society, he doesn't have to buy it.  But obviously there are a lot of people, in fact more people than Amazon can currently satisfy, who think the Kindle is worth at least $359.

By the way, one other note on DRM and proprietary platforms.  I am the last one to spend much time defending DRM, but proprietary platforms are totally normal for new technologies.  The thing that is often ignored about the Kindle is that ... it just works.  You log on, download the books you want, and they are there in seconds and display correctly and reliably.  I lost my first Kindle, and when the second one showed up, all my books from my first Kindle where already on my second.  No crashes, no need for tech support.

People give Microsoft loads of well-deserved cr*p for problems in its software and for playing too many proprietary tricks, but the real reason PC's can be a pain and can be tech support nightmares is because PC's are not very proprietary -- they are really a wide open platform, and try to integrate a hodge podge of components and software from a variety of sources, and sometimes things inevitably go wrong.  People tend to forget that the reason the Mac and the iPod are so compelling in the user-friendliness and stability is that they are proprietary, tightly controlled platforms.

I personally prefer the PC, because I like the flexibility and am not scared off by the occasional integration challenge.  Over time, I have realized that I am in the minority.  Most people want their electronic devices to freaking work, and don't care if they don't have access to the 100-item micro-configuration menu and probably will never have a desire to transfer the book file on their Kindle to be read on the LCD on their refrigerator.

Perfect Gift for the Holidays!

From the Business Opportunities Weblog:

Continuing my list of my favorite business books of 2007 brings us to another unconventional one: BMOC.
While the book, by Warren Meyer, is fictional, it does contain a number
of interesting business ideas, including my favorite outlandish
business opporunity of all time: fountain coin harvesting.

Amazon link for BMOC here  (sorry, I tried to get the price cut for the holidays but it really takes a long time for that to work through the system).