In the past, The Curmudgeon has written glowing reviews of his experience using an e-reader – specifically, his Kindle.  He just loves the gizmo, loves reading on it.  He also is generally a very enthusiastic customer of because everything’s there, the prices are good, and the service has always been impeccable.

Still, despite his Kindle love, he rarely purchases e-books from Amazon.  Many of the books he wants to read are not available in e-book form, so he is still heavily invested in regular books, many of which he borrows from the library, purchases at library used book sales, or purchases used.  When he reads books on his e-reader, they are almost always library books.  As avid a reader as he is, he is seldom willing to pay the rather considerable amount of money that a new book costs, so he usually waits for it to come out in paperback, waits to find it used, or waits for it to become available electronically from the library.

But when The Curmudgeon goes on vacation he likes to have something special to read, and this year, that something special, he decided, was to be a new book about inside Washington, D.C. called This Town:  Two Parties and a Funeral – Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! – in America’s Gilded Capital.

Consequently, The Curmudgeon went to to make his purchase.

Now a major part of the premise of e-books, in addition to the convenience of carrying your books around with you in a very small and convenient package, is that e-books always cost less than regular books.  That seems only natural:  there’s no shipping involved, no printing and production, no art work, no bookstores for publishers to bribe for prime shelf space.  E-books are naturally less expensive.

But not in this case.  At the time The Curmudgeon went to make his purchase, the price for the Kindle version of  This Town was $12.74.  For the hardback?  $10.85.  Now the difference is a little less than two dollars – not exactly a great deal of money – but still, it’s the principle of the thing, right?  So The Curmudgeon sent a quick note to customer service, suggesting that the company and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, go do something that most people agree is anatomically impossible.

This is what happens when one company’s success gives it a virtual corner on the market.  As a long-time user of Apple computers, The Curmudgeon should be accustomed to this kind of corporate arrogance by now, but still, this one was a real shocker:  the e-book cost more than the real book.

Amazon can act all Apple-like now because it helped kill Borders, it helped kill countless mom-and-pop bookstores, and it now apparently has Barnes & Noble on the ropes.  When a company kills off most of the competition and has the field to itself, that’s how you end up with an e-book costing more than a hard-copy version.

Somehow, someone needs to come along and give Amazon some competition, because otherwise, the company’s going to turn its lack of competition into a lack of interest in serving its customers.  For years Amazon’s been killing its customers with kindness while it killed off its competitors, and there are plenty of retail fields left for Amazon to conquer.  If it succeeds, it will no longer feel the need to kill its customers with kindness.  By that point, when it’s the only game in town, it will be able to kill us, too.

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