The What-If’s of a long-ago court settlement
I moved to Minneapolis in 1991 and occasionally went to the Amazon book store, a feminist collective that sold books to that audience. The Amazon collective was named after the mythical fierce women warriors and billed itself as the oldest feminist bookstore in the United States. For a time it was located next to the Lesbian Resource Center. Its logo was a labrys, the double-headed axe.
I remember a great coffee shop with fresh baked goods close by — a perfect way to spend time with a new book and a good cup of coffee.
In 1994 Jeff Bezos started a new company he called Amazon, after the longest river in the world. He sold books online.
By 1995 the confusion in names was a problem for the Amazon collective. They kept getting telephone calls intended for the other Amazon.
By 1999, they sued Amazon.com for copyright infringement. Amazon.com settled by acquiring the name from them, and in turn giving them the rights to the name Amazon Bookstore Collective, and a small cash settlement.
In 2008 the Bookstore Collective closed, in a market where it was too tough for small, independent bookstores. The competition, of course, was internet behemoths like Amazon.
Although it didn’t come up in interviews at the time, Amazon stock in November 1999 was valued at approximately $80/share, the date of the settlement.
Amazon stock was valued at approximately $3000/share in April 2022.
I retired from my career managing nonprofit organizations a while ago. We thought in terms of cooperation and mutual benefit. We did not think in terms of share prices and maximizing investments.
It was a different ethos and a different time.
Oh, that the feminist collective had gotten some shares of Amazon in exchange for giving up their name. The funding of ideas in the feminist marketplace might be a different story.
But there are many what-if stories out there.
It’s just hard now to compare the value of stock then and now, and the dearth of independent and niche bookstores with their related communities, then and now.
It’s not only the marketplace for the tangible items like books, it’s the rubbing of shoulders with like-minded readers and writers, the frisson of ideas that come from conversation in a place.
The internet is a great third place. It allows for the exchange of ideas.
But so did niche places and subject specific independent bookstores.