Amazon jobs are 'a great example of what's possible,' says Obama as more indie booksellers object

President Obama appeared as scheduled at a Chattanooga, Tenn., Amazon warehouse and praised the business, causing even more independent booksellers to express their displeasure with his endorsement.

Susan Walsh/AP
President Barack Obama speaks at the Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tenn.

President Obama appeared at an Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga, Tenn., as scheduled on Tuesday to praise the company for its job creation, a gesture that is still angering the indie book world.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Amazon employees who attended the speech were instructed not to speak with the media. Warehouse workers were each permitted to bring one guest to the event and other attendees included politicians and other guests. The public was not allowed to attend.

During his appearance, the president, who received a tour of part of the facility, discussed his ideas for job creation, including increased funds going to programs to create jobs for the middle class while decreasing corporate tax rates.

Obama praised Amazon’s Career Choice Program, through which the company pays 95 percent of employees’ tuition if they want to pursue degrees in certain fields, whether or not the schooling is related to the employees’ Amazon jobs.

“Amazon is a great example of what's possible,” Obama said. “if they've got a dream they want to pursue, Amazon wants to help them pursue it. That’s the kind of approach that we need from America's businesses.”

These words did not sit well with members of the country's independent bookselling community, many of whom feel that Amazon's price-slashing practices are destroying their businesses.

A number of spokespeople for the indie booksellers went public with their displeasure, following earlier protests. The CEO of the American Booksellers Association, Oren Teicher, wrote in a letter to the president that “on behalf of the American Booksellers Association, we are writing today to call your attention to how Amazon’s business practices are actually harming small businesses and the American economy…. The news this weekend that Amazon is slashing prices far below cost on numerous book titles is further evidence that it will stop at nothing to garner market share at the expense of small businesses that cannot afford to sell inventory below their cost of acquisition.”

Meanwhile, in another letter, the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association called Amazon’s practices “a direct threat to the health of literature, boldly sacrificing books as loss leaders… Amazon is brazenly undercutting the book industry by offering 60% discounts on new hardcover titles – essentially eliminating the opportunity for an independent bookseller to make that sale. If independent bookstores absorb this hit, who will sell your books, and where will you purchase books for your daughters?”

The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association told the president in a letter, “The day may come when you will not have the pleasure of shopping at our stores, such as Politics & Prose, Kramer Books or One More Page. We would hope that your administration would be standing with Main Street, and investigating the monopolistic practices of Amazon, rather than either explicitly or tacitly endorsing those practices.”

While in Chattanooga, Obama also granted an interview to David Blum, the editor of Kindle Singles. Kindle Singles recently launched a program in which interviews with prominent figures will be available for purchase in the store, though Obama's, which was released today, will be available at no cost.

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