Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Amazon: Our Holiday Sales Were Great. Just Don’t Ask Us to Tell You About Them

Retail was supposed to get hammered during the holiday season that just ended, and a new survey says that sales fell four percent. But Amazon says Christmas 2008 was its “best ever.” How so?

Jeff Bezos and company won’t say. Amazon (AMZN) is only doling out a handful of statistics to quantify its success. Like the number of items ordered on its peak day–6.3 million–and the number of items shipped on its peak day–5.6 million units.

Those numbers don’t give you any sense of what kind of stuff consumers were ordering, and what prices. Observers will eventually get a better handle on that over time as Amazon releases its financials, but don’t expect too much disclosure: The company is famously reticent about letting outsiders peek inside.

And in any case, Amazon was supposed to do well over the past few months. The real surprise would be if the company had said it hadn’t crushed the holiday season, which is why Amazon’s shares are only up by two percent or so today.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work