Date: 23 June 2016
Dear Jeff Bezos
I hope you enjoy Peter Sellers movies as much as I do. Although he’s often considered a Goonish clown, which of course he was, Sellers was the master of the dark absurdist comedy. He chose his parts with care and brought a violent slapstick tension to his roles. A philosophy was at work. In his most memorable parts, such as in Dr Strangelove or Lolita, Sellers chose scripts that poked fun at power, at the abuse of power, and at the absurdities of those who wielded it. Sellers was a complicated guy, an anarchic maniac, and you never knew quite what he was up to. I admire him a lot.
The Mouse That Roared has become an enduring meme of popular culture. In this hilarious movie Sellers plays multiple parts. It is the time-served parable of the clueless little guy who stands up to the all powerful tyrant. In lesser hands it could have been sentimental or predictable. But it wasn’t. The film went beyond straight comedy to comment with intelligence on the absurdities of war, nuclear weapons, and the arrogance of the United States of America.
You’re a smart guy, Jeff. You can see where this is going. Which is why I’m writing to invite you to eavesdrop on a Council of War I’ll be co-convening this Saturday, in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick, Scotlandshire.
This bookish event, organised by The Saltire Society, as part of an online Scot Lit Festival, has been advertised as ‘Kevin & Gillian vs Amazon’. I’m Kevin. Hi. I’m an author, publisher and a well known trouble-maker. Gillian ran a small independent bookshop in Edinburgh called Looking Glass Books. Our event will be live streamed on the interweb between 3pm and 4pm, British Summer Time. Listen in. Send your workforce a memo. Ask them to tune in. They’ll love it!
Oh yes, as Detective Columbo used to say, there is one other thing. On 1st May 2015 at the launch of a collection of poetry (co-edited by myself) I declared war on your Kindle. No, seriously. I hate them. I’m a printed book kind of guy. I like the feel of them, the aesthetic, the permanence. Anyway, that night, on stage in front of over 400 folk, I took a hammer to one of your Kindles. Seriously. They’re sturdy wee fuckers, I’ll give you that. Took a good few blows before the glass shattered. I smashed it in the name of the printed word. The book. The cradle of civilisation. This was reported widely in the local press and a meme was generated. Books not Kindles. Paper not glass.
And do you know what happened next, Jeff? You’ll love this. On 6th Oct 2015, Waterstones, the largest bricks and mortar book chain in the UK, stated it would no longer stock your Kindles. Managing Director James Gaunt said: “Sales continue to be pitiful so we are taking the display space back.” They said they’d use the space for printed books. Made from paper. What a fucking result, eh!
It got better. Just a few weeks ago, on 13th May 2016, it was widely reported that sales of eBooks in the UK fell for the first time in 7 years by 1.6% to £554m. While the sales of printed books rose 1.3% to £4.4bn. Ya beauty! Anna Bond of Pan-McMillan commented: “2015 was the year when the physical book fought back.”
As you can imagine, Jeff, I’m greatly encouraged by my successes so far and feel emboldened to go much further. So what we’re aiming to do next is provide a long overdue service for your customers. We intend to to pull back the curtain and have a look at what’s behind the cheery familiar facade of Amazon. Let’s have a look at what’s really going on behind the user-friendly website with its low prices & fast deliveries. We’re going to project what might happen if Amazon are left to their own devices and not effectively challenged by governments, new legislation, trade unions, and your own unsuspecting customers.
So, Jeff, on Saturday afternoon, a couple of mice will declare war on you and your corporation. We have right on our side and we’re in for the long haul. All you’ve got are metrics, low prices, 305 million active customers worldwide, a personal net worth valued at $63.3 billion, and global juggernaut valued at $250 billion. You don’t stand a chance.
Kevin Williamson & Gillian Robertson
The Duchy of Grand Fenwick
Kevin & Gillian vs Amazon
‘Williamson sees the comical side of his one man war on Amazon’