In Amazon’s case, I simply do not approve of Bezos’ naked attempts to mold the publishing industry to his view. I think this is ultimately anticonsumer and only good for Bezos. The deception is that Bezos presents himself and his company to the consumer as if they are their champion because they want lower pricing. Unfortunately, lower pricing is not a panacea for all of mankind’s ills — just look at how rock bottom pricing from China has affected us, or how BP’s cost-cutting attempts in the Gulf of Mexico will affect us — and cost us – for decades. Similarly, having been on all sides of the publishing equation except that of author during my quarter century in publishing, I can see how concentration of market power and pricing power in the hands of a single person like Bezos could be devastating to readers — perhaps not today or tomorrow, but not so far down the line. It also irks me that Amazon insists on a closed system for its ebooks, refusing to adopt the ePUB standard and a common DRM scheme. Consequently, I have chosen not to support Bezos’ quest to dominate publishing and do not buy from Amazon.
Apple, however, presents a slightly different problem. In some market segments it is dominant and has set the ground rules, but that really doesn’t bother me because there are any number of powerful competitors to Apple who could bounce Apple from its perch. The problem with Apple is Jobs and his insistence on closed systems and his arbitrariness (for a recent take on the arbitrariness theme, see the Ars Technica column “Apple’s ‘Evil/Genius’ Plan to Punk the Web and Gild the iPad”).
Maybe Adobe’s Flash is problematic; maybe that political video is insulting; maybe that book uses too many 4-letter words. Maybe, maybe, maybe — except in Jobs’ world where it is definitely, absolutely, and without question. I fundamentally object to Jobs telling me what I can and cannot do. Why should every application for the iPad or iPhone require Jobs’ approval? I bought the hardware not a nanny — or did I? (And the SDK kit for application developers is as controlling as Jobs can make it.)
Jobs assumes that the experience that I want to get from an Apple product is the experience that he wants me to get; that I have no idea of what is a good experience or a bad experience. I do not want to encourage the control mania that Jobs seeks to exert; consequently, I do not buy Apple products. If I want to read James Joyce’s Ulysses, I do not want to first check whether it is on Jobs’ approved list — I just want to read it, 4-letter words and all.
I also do not want to encourage Jobs to think that I acquiesce to his power grab over hardware and applications I buy. Today, Jobs permits Barnes & Noble and Amazon to have iPad applications, but will he permit them tomorrow if he discovers that they are making 90% of the ebook sales that are being made to iPad owners? It would be more true to form for him to find some reason why the applications need to be banned or for him to revise the operating system to make the applications incompatible.
I know that Apple devotees believe that when you buy an Apple-built computer or other Apple product you are buying the best; but that isn’t really true. You are buying the best that Apple has and the various components do work well together, but the individual pieces are not necessarily the best available for what I want to do. For example, few video gamers would put an Apple at the top of their wishlist to play games. More importantly, at least for me, is that Jobs has decided this is how the hardware will be configured and who can write applications for his operating system and I will buy it whether it truly meets my needs or not. Jobs wants me to adapt to him, yet one would think that in the consumer age the seller would adapt to the buyer.
In the end, it boils down to arrogance. Both Jobs and Bezos arrogantly believe that they know what is best for me and either I agree or they will take home their ball so no one can play. In Apple’s case, I wonder how many people look beyond the shiny new toy; in Amazon’s case, I wonder how many people look beyond the price; in both cases, I wonder how many people have read George Orwell’s 1984 and recognized that it might apply to something other than nations.
Editor’s Note: the above is take, with permission, from Rich Adin’s An American Editor blog. PB