We think we’re immune to marketing and advertising but we’re not. And yeah, eventually, everyone realizes this, but usually not until after we’ve sunk a fortune in suites of Apple products and sweat equity at Facebook. I would never suggest dismissing the art of sales, though. Without it, everything would look like Linux.
But that pesky “look like” element of delivery mechanisms is precisely where marketing and sales haunt my every move. These are just appearances. In a perfect world, I learn to love whatever “plain text mode” is, and depend no longer on the emotional response I await in consumer gratification. In the real world=eyes, feelings, taste.
Reading George Packer’s New Yorker feature on Amazon was an experience in extreme self-reflection and cogitation, beyond what I’d expected in typical “I knew that already” disdain and “welcome to capitalism, y’all” pessimism. I heard dozens of past arguments ringing for attention during the bits about consumer advocacy (e.g. “I’ll stop using amazon when you find me a cheaper place to get diapers”), and the bits about labor rights—I had no idea working in an amazon facility represented upwards of 10 miles of walking and that performance was quantified by fulfillments per… MINUTE. I was fully nauseated at discovery of each new detail on Jeff Bezos. He’s a liberatarian. He doesn’t like music.
I felt the strangest tug when Packer went into one of the major pitfalls of Big Publishing that led to its own demise: its inability to leave expensive Manhattan offices.
While I have always complained publishers were slow on the internet game (I’m talkin’ “what is a blog?” seminars at BEA in as late as 2003-slow), I do admit the charms of our most bourgeois of arts—neither aristocratic nor proletariat by industry—lie so dearly in New York as its threshold. Because for as long as I can remember, almost every single book I read had one thing in common. On that stupid copyright page, right under the title and author name, without fail, was always the same two word phrase:
This was when copyright pages were still the first thing in a book, of course. I’m looking at several paperbacks on my desk as I write this, with sclerotic covers revealing lists of endorsements where the excess pages of a signature would in the past be left blissfully blank. [There you go, another example of my ambivalence toward advertising.]
I feel my journey to New York has been inextricably linked to the copyright provenance of all those books I read. If every second page of every book I read said “Seattle,” you’d be sure I’d be there now, and find even some forgiveness for Amazon because of it (though probably not grunge music… cf. Linux).
Now that I live here, I can’t say I hadn’t been advertised to; that this wasn’t some long-game strategy by publishers to get their most ardent readers to consent to indentured work for the farm that fed them. But to the naysayers, I’ll just say: I’ll stop admiring New York when you find me a better place to wear diapers.