Tomorrow, President Obama will travel to Chattanooga, TN, to give a speech promoting manufacturing and higher-paying jobs for Americans — and he'll be giving it at the Amazon warehouse, a move that has left some critics of the president and the internet sales giant a little angry. As noted by GigaOM, a number of those complaints are coming from book publishers — an industry particularly affected by Amazon's ability to cut prices on merchandise and sell it at volume. Dennis Johnson, co-founder of independent publisher Melville House wrote a scathing post on the company's blog, calling Amazon "an openly de facto — and I would ad de jure — monopoly." Regarding Obama's visit, Johnson writes:
The only thing that would have stopped Amazon anyway was government intervention, and it's hard to imagine the DOJ opening a proper antitrust investigation of a company that has the President of the United States dropping in to laud the company and spend some time in one of its warehouses.
Shelf Awareness, a site and newsletter focused on the book and publishing industry, collected similarly displeased statements by others in the business. "I am trying to understand how supporting a monopoly such as Amazon helps small businesses & middle-income Americans," wrote Sheri Olson, owner of Reading Frenzy Bookshop, in a letter to the president, while Bruce Joshua Miller of Miller Trade Book Marketing called his visit "truly shocking."
The visit comes at a time when Amazon's trying to fend off critics — the company just put out a press release touting the creation of more than 5,000 new jobs in its fulfillment centers as well as 2,000 more jobs in other positions like customer service. It also comes at a time when Amazon has been furiously cutting prices on traditional books to compete with Overstock.com. While there's little doubt that Amazon is a major concern for smaller, local businesses, it's hard to read too deeply into the president's motivations here — a number of those concerned with his speech are saying it's just another sign that Obama is in Amazon's pocket. More likely he's just taking the photo op and an opportunity to promote his jobs plan, but there's no doubt it's still a bit ironic that he's doing it at Amazon's warehouse.