Amazon Chronicles

By Tim Carmody

Stories about Amazon and the industries and communities in its shadow.

Stories about Amazon and the industries and communities in its shadow.

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Amazon's Digital Returns Problem

Amazon's undisputed place at the top of the e-book market gives it tremendous leeway to put whatever policies it wants in place, partners (and in some cases, customers) be damned. For example, the company has a generous/porous return policy for digital books …


Two Ways Amazon Misjudged Its Workforce Pipeline

Two Amazon stories this week caught my attention (and maybe yours too!). Both have to do with Amazon's workforce — rarely major news unless there's something straightforwardly political happening, like a union election or a hearing about workplace injuries — …


The Earnings Were Bad, Sure — But Were They That Bad?

(Why won't you let me add alt text to images, Revue? That… that is really stupid.)


The Earnings Drumbeats Are Calling

First, as a matter of housekeeping, something I genuinely thought would probably not happen (Elon Musk buying Twitter, and therefore Revue) now looks like it probably will happen, and I frankly don't know yet what that means for this newsletter. I've already …


Andy Jassy's First Annual Letter

Andy Jassy's first annual letter as Amazon CEO appeared last week, along with a related interview he did on CNBC's Squawk Box. I was sad to see this exchange (there's a little more but this is the core of it) turn into a fleet of breathless stories about Amaz…


A new home for Amazon Chronicles (at Revue!)

Dear readers,When I last wrote in December, I said that I hoped I would have a chance to bring back this newsletter, and behold! Here it is, once again. This is the third extended hiatus this newsletter has taken in the 3+ years since it began, but I can assu…


Amazon Chronicles on Hiatus

Dear Readers,


What Is Amazon Spending Money On?

Amazon’s latest quarterly earnings report was its most dour in some time: the company missed Wall Street expectations and was accordingly conservative in its guidance for the usually blockbuster holiday quarter coming up (“Operating income is expected to be b…


Amazon’s Push and Pull With Its Marketplace

One way to read a good chunk of the last week or so of news stories about Amazon is as a complex push and pull between Amazon and the third-party sellers that make up its marketplace. On the one hand, Amazon wants to present itself as absolutely essential to …


Working Backwards: Dave Limp on Amazon’s Six Page Memo

At The Verge, my old colleague/boss Nilay Patel has a new Decoder interview with Dave Limp, SVP of the devices group at Amazon. It’s available as a podcast or lovingly transcribed, and is well worth listening to / reading — I’ll be referring to the transcript…


So Many Cameras, in Search of a Vision

Maybe we’re just fools, but one reason why tech PR events announcing a new set of products and services have caught on as quasi-pop culture is that they offer a chance to see a vision of the future. We’re chasing that feeling we had the first time we saw the …


State Lawmakers Want Public and Workers to Know What Amazon’s Up To

A California law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday aims to regulate and make more transparent warehouses run by Amazon and other employers. Here is Suhauna Hussain’s summary in the Los Angeles Times:


What Could E-Bookstores Be Like?

A small news story slid in over the weekend, but I think it’s noteworthy enough to take a second look. It’s an interview with’s Andy Hunter by Techcrunch’s Danny Crichton. There’s a lot of data here. For example:


Alec MacGillis on Amazon and the Evolution of Work, Part 2

(This is the second part of an interview I did with reporter Alec MacGillis, author of the book Fulfillment, in the spring about Amazon and the evolution of mostly blue-collar work across the United States; see here for the first part of the interview.)


Alec MacGillis on Amazon and the Evolution of Work

Back in the spring, I interviewed Alec MacGillis, author of Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America. This was while union elections were taking place at an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemmer, Alabama; I was just starting to think about a seri…


A Glimpse of the City

This will be (I hope) a brief coda to my earlier post, “Tolkien and Amazon’s Fight for a Franchise.” In that post, I claim that J.R.R. Tolkien’s First Age stories, collected in The Silmarillion, The Children of Húrin, Beren and Luthien, and The Fall of Gondol…


Tolkien and Amazon’s Fight for a Franchise

Amazon is spending a huge amount of money on its new multi-season television series set in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy universe: an estimated 250 million USD for the rights and 465 million USD just for the first season, making it quite likely the most expensive …


Moderating Amazon Web Services

I’m trying something a little different here: a forum-style post where I pose a question or problem, usually after describing it at some length, and ask for your comments and feedback. To be honest, I’m stealing this format for my own purposes from Helena Fit…


Who Is Blue Origin For?

It’s a tricky thing when you’re writing and reporting a newsletter about Amazon, perhaps especially when you’re writing about Amazon in a very broad sense as both a company and a cultural phenomenon, to avoig getting caught up in Amazon’s own news cycle. Amaz…


Amazon Prime Days as Media Event

I generally dislike writing about Prime Day (or Black Friday, etc.), or any Amazon sales or deals because I don’t see the job of this newsletter as helping Amazon move products, even (or especially) when they’re things I use and like. I’m not an Amazon expert…