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Citizen Bezos

Steve Coll examines Brad Stone’s The Everything Store, and Amazon’s impact on publishing:

Toward the end of his account, Stone asks the essential question: “Will antitrust authorities eventually come to scrutinize Amazon and its market power?” His answer: “Yes, I believe that is likely.” It is “clear that Amazon has helped damage or destroy competitors small and large,” in Stone’s judgment.

In view of Amazon’s recent treatment of The Everything Store, Stone may now end up as a courtroom witness. Yet there are reasons to be wary about who will prevail in such a contest, if it ever takes place. As Stone notes, “Amazon is a masterly navigator of the law.” And crucially, as in so many other fields of economic policy, antitrust law has been reshaped in recent decades by the spread of free-market fundamentalism. Judges and legislators have reinterpreted antitrust law to emphasize above all the promotion of low prices for consumers, which Amazon delivers, rather than the interests of producers—whether these are authors, book publishers, or mom-and-pop grocery stores—that are threatened by giants.

AUTHOR:Steve Coll
PUBLISHED: June 23, 2014
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4294 words)

Making the Magazine: A Reading List

Magazine nerds, here we go: A starter collection of 27 behind-the-scenes stories from some of your most beloved magazines, including The New Yorker, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair and the New York Review of Books, plus now-defunct publications like Might, George, Sassy and Wigwag.
PUBLISHED: June 16, 2014

The Path to Pearl Harbor

How Japan found itself on the brink of war in December 1941:

By the mid–1930s, much of northern China was essentially under Japanese influence. Then, on July 7, 1937, a small-scale clash between local Chinese and Japanese troops at the Marco Polo Bridge in Wanping, a small village outside Beijing, escalated. The Japanese prime minister, Prince Konoe, used the clash to make further territorial demands on China. Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Nationalist government, decided that the moment had come to confront Japan rather than appease it, and full-scale war broke out between the two sides.

PUBLISHED: May 19, 2014
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3543 words)

Let the Past Collapse on Time!

Sorokin writes that collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 wasn’t as complete as some may have thought:

In recent opinion polls, almost half of those surveyed consider Stalin to have been a “good leader.” In the new interpretation of history, Stalin is seen as an “effective manager,” and the purges are characterized as a rotation of cadres necessary for the modernization of the USSR. The Soviet Union may have collapsed geographically and economically, but ideologically it survives in the hearts of millions of Homo sovieticus. The Soviet mentality turned out to be tenacious; it adapted to the wild capitalism of the 1990s and began to mutate in the post-Soviet state. That tenacity is what preserved a pyramidal system of power that goes back as far as Ivan the Terrible and was strengthened by Stalin.

PUBLISHED: April 21, 2014
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1801 words)

He Remade Our World

A series of decisions, made more than a decade ago by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, still shape the world we live in today:

In the end, perhaps inevitably, Bush would disappoint Cheney, bowing, in the steely unforgiving view of the older man, to the shoddy demands of politics and the fear of “negative press stories.” As Cheney describes the end of the Stellar Wind confrontation in his memoirs, one can almost hear the condescending disappointment in the former vice-president’s voice:

“Faced with threats of resignation, the president decided to alter the NSA program, even though he and his advisors were confident of his constitutional authority to continue the program unchanged.”

PUBLISHED: March 27, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4186 words)

Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our favorite stories of the week, featuring Washingtonian, New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, Financial Times and Full Stop.
PUBLISHED: Jan. 24, 2014

On Breaking One's Neck

A senior physician gets a new perspective about what it's like to be critically ill under the U.S. medical care system after falling and breaking his neck:

What did this experience teach me about the current state of medical care in the US? Quite a lot, as it turns out. I always knew that the treatment of the critically ill in our best teaching hospitals was excellent. That was certainly confirmed by the life-saving treatment I received in the Massachusetts General emergency room. Physicians there simply refused to let me die (try as hard as I might). But what I hadn’t appreciated was the extent to which, when there is no emergency, new technologies and electronic record-keeping affect how doctors do their work. Attention to the masses of data generated by laboratory and imaging studies has shifted their focus away from the patient. Doctors now spend more time with their computers than at the bedside. That seemed true at both the ICU and Spaulding. Reading the physicians’ notes in the MGH and Spaulding records, I found only a few brief descriptions of how I felt or looked, but there were copious reports of the data from tests and monitoring devices. Conversations with my physicians were infrequent, brief, and hardly ever reported.

PUBLISHED: Jan. 20, 2014
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4024 words)

'The Greatest Catastrophe the World Has Ever Seen'

On the 100th anniversary of World War I, severalnewbooks examine how the global powers walked into it, and who really was to blame:

Thus was unleashed the calamitous conflict that, more than any other series of events, has shaped the world ever since; without it we can doubt that communism would have taken hold in Russia, fascism in Italy, and Nazism in Germany, or that global empires would have disintegrated so rapidly and so chaotically. A century on we still search for its causes, and very often, if possible, for people to blame. In the immediate aftermath of war that seemed clear to many: Germany, and especially its leaders, had been responsible; the Austrians too, as accomplices, in lesser degree. The Treaty of Versailles made this official, as the victorious powers there spoke of a “war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.” This was the notorious guilt clause used to justify severe “reparation” payments stretching far into the future. It was a widespread view, and ordinary Germans might have shared it if the vanquishers had not gone for the premise of collective responsibility, which undermined attempts to build a fresh German regime untainted by the past.

PUBLISHED: Jan. 18, 2014
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4424 words)

The Newspaper War That Gave Birth to Color Comics

How William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer’s newspaper battles kickstarted the modern era of comics:

The sudden explosion of color comics had been facilitated by new high-speed four-color printing presses, but “lead pipe” may have been the operative term in Hearst’s boast. The original comics were designed to stun—both their startling graphics and their rambunctious antics. “Mit dose kids, society is nix!” an adult character says of Hans and Fritz, the daemonic, chortling child protagonists of The Katzenjammer Kids which, although inspired by the German artist Wilhelm Busch’s humorous picture book Max und Moritz, may be considered America’s first fully realized comic strip.

PUBLISHED: Dec. 31, 2013
LENGTH: 6 minutes (1500 words)