September 12, 2013

An Open Letter from Jeff Bezos to ABA CEO Oren Teicher


Everyone loves a pen pal. And bloodthirsty capitalism.

Hey OT!

What’s up man! I just saw your letter to me last Tuesday, and thought I’d get back to you. Though you know, buddy, if you want to reach me you can just send me a regular letter, you don’t need to post them on your website.

Simply type in any annotation while reading a book on your Kindle and I’ll be sure to see it. Or, wait, that’s right, you don’t own a Kindle on account of the whole I’m-working-to-destroy-all-that-you-love thing.

Ah well, maybe send me a letter on that other stuff instead. No, not human vellum, the thing the plebes write on, I’m forgetting what it’s called. Anyhow, send one of those letters. I promise, my assistants read some of them before they chuck them into that open pit where we keep a mound of burning books.

I love a good flame pit.

Anyhoo, Oren, pal, I just wanted to say up front that, though you may not know it, you letter sounds a little sarcastic.  You know and I know that we’re friends for life. Once you share a jar of scalp-wax, there’s no going back. But if I didn’t know for sure that we are bee-eff-effs, I’d think you were somehow mocking me.

Here’s what I’m talking about. You begin:

I am puzzled.

On the one hand, it’s been widely reported in the media that Amazon has come around to supporting efforts to collect sales taxes equitably. On the other hand, Amazon continues to go to extraordinary lengths to fight every reasonable step forward in establishing a level playing field with regard to sales tax fairness. Which is it?

And you continue:

Amazon has said that all sellers should compete on a level playing field and that states need to be able to collect a tax that is already owed, especially in a time of budget shortfalls.

But you recently asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decisions of three New York State courts that allow just that.

I don’t get it, Jeff.

But I think you get it Oren! I think you’re telling jokes! I wasn’t sure, so I bought some investigative reporters the other day and they agree, you might not have been sincerely confused.

Which is a good reminder, I need to fire all of those people, replace ’em with temps. You can’t develop a quantum computer without breaking a few cherished media institutions, as I always say.

But back to your letter—look man, what did I ever do to you? Sure, sure, you lead an organization of stores that I have quite specifically worked to put out of business. Yes, I’m trying to continue ripping off the very state where you live. Yeah okay, there was that time I left the flaming turd bag on your porch. But come on Oren, can’t we move past that? Water under the bridge! Bygones! Compared to our Bald Bond, any bad blood between us is as inconsequential as the wages I pay our overworked warehouse crews.

I’m trying here buddy, I am.

Why, you ask, would Amazon support a nationwide standard for taxing e-commerce, but fight individual states’ efforts, all the way to the Supreme Court? You know as well as I do. Because I hate paying money and I’d rather not do it. Because whatever the details of Quill Corp vs. North Dakota, this Supreme Court has proven itself able to twist the law into truly outlandish shapes to benefit big business, and because even with our opprtunistic good-image support, legislation enforcing any kind of tax—not even enacting a new one—is going to have a tough time passing the House. And because I’m lonely.

It was nice to hear from you, is what I mean, Oren.

What do you think all this has been about? The Quantum computer—so that when I go to check my inbox, for a moment, there both will and will not be a message from you; the space flight—so that I can someday travel at relativistic speeds, forever out of reach of communication, and finally have a reason as to why I haven’t heard from you. I’m finally admitting it Oren. I just wanted to hear from you. And even this letter, sarcastic and public as it was, has made me happy.

Clearly ruining state infrastructure is the right tactic. Guess I’ll keep it up.




Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.