President Obama’s Support of Amazon Angers Independent Book Sellers

Earlier this week President Obama paid a visit to Amazon’s immense distribution center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The president praised, among other things, Amazon’s unique Career Choice tuition assistance program, which is available to all full-time Amazon employees, as well as Amazon’s job creation – Amazon had announced just a few days earlier plans to hire up to an additional 7000 workers across the country. But President Obama’s support for Amazon has brought howls of outrage from independent book stores and their trade organizations.

Referring to Amazon’s huge Chattanooga distribution center as “the North Pole of the South,” the president said “I’m calling on our businesses to do more for their workers. Amazon is a great example of what’s possible. What you’re doing here at Amazon with your Career Choice Program pays 95 percent of the tuition for employees who want to earn skills in fields with high demand — not just, by the way, jobs here at Amazon, but jobs anywhere – computer-aided design or nursing. I talked to Jeff Bezos yesterday, and he was so proud of the fact that he wants to see every employee at Amazon continually upgrade their skills and improve.”

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But the independent booksellers, who see Amazon as a monopolistic behemoth who puts smaller book retailers out of business, do not see it quite the same way. Several trade associations expressed outrage to President Obama, such as the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) who wrote “We cannot believe this is your vision of job creation and the future of American middle class. We would hope your administration would be standing with Main Street, and investigating the monopolistic practices of Amazon, rather than explicitly or tacitly endorsing those practices.”

“What is the thinking behind this decision?” demanded NEIBA in their letter. “Their business model is based on fighting those states that have required them to collect and remit sales tax while driving Main Street brick and mortar stores out of business through predatory pricing.”

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