I’ve been following Cory Doctorow’s fiction and non-fiction writing for several years now, so I knew what to expect of this book.
Aside from the book’s considerations about specific industries, I found the concrete examples of abuse by current tech monopolies illustrating. One thing is to know, for example, that Amazon’s Audible controls both the supply and demand sides of the audiobook market. Another thing is to learn that at one point, Amazon was—according to the book— actively encouraging it’s customers to “return” their audiobooks for a reimbursement so Amazon didn’t have to pay the authors. (Amazon charges a flat subscription fee for Audible.)
This paragraph from the book synthetizes the authors’ view on the subject:
When the system is working—when firms are competing for both suppliers and customers—individual choices really can make a difference. But once the system is busted, your individual choices cease to matter to firms’ bottom lines. Now that Apple and Google completely control the market for mobile apps, you virtually cannot decide to go elsewhere while still participating in our online society. We’re near that same point with Amazon for ebooks and audio titles, with Live Nation for big concerts and ticketing, with Spotify for streaming—on and on, ad infinitum.
I believe that free markets and competition are better than the alternative of highly regulated or closed markets. But as any system, it can be abused, because decisions are finally made by people and not by systems.