Podcasting “View A SKU”

A plan to turn Amazon into a dumb pipe.

Cory Doctorow
7 min readAug 1, 2022


A modified Amazon product listing page; the buy with Amazon button and Prime logo have been replaced with a “Buy from DIY Center” button a ‘Buy local’ logo with an upside-down Amazon smile logo, and the ‘In Stock’ wordmark has been replaced with ‘In stock at a local merchant: DIY Center.

This week on my podcast, I read my recent Medium column, “View a SKU: Let’s Make Amazon Into a Dumb Pipe,” about how interop can help us demonopolize Amazon and tame its market power:


To explain this proposal, I need to start with an axiom: there are lots of problems with Amazon (lots!) but the fact that Amazon is really convenient is not one of those problems. Your use of Amazon isn’t a mark of your “laziness” anymore than your consumption of plastics is a mark of your indifference to the planet.

As Zephyr Teachout writes in her stupendous book Break ’Em Up,

“I like supporting local retail for shopping whenever possible. But I will not shame people for buying from Amazon the magic markers they use to write ‘Break up Bezos’ power’ on a big poster they parade outside their state attorney general’s office.”


The drive to “shop local” is great, but it shouldn’t become a hairshirt. If you buy something from Amazon, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you support union-busting, monopolization and creepy surveillance doorbells. It might just mean that you are out of time and live in a place where Amazon killed most of the retail that survived Walmart.

A Mr Gotcha panel by Matt Bors from The Nib. A downtrodden peasant says, ‘We should improve society somewhat.’ Mr Gotcha replies, ‘Yet you participate in society, curious! I am very intelligent.’

If you’ve enjoyed Matt Bors’s work, you understand this. It’s the essence of the Mr Gotcha gag. A downtrodden peasant says, “We should improve society somewhat” and Mr Gotcha replies, “Yet you participate in society, curious! I am very intelligent.”


The fact that Amazon has given us a single database in which you can search for a large slice of all the objects of retail commerce, read reviews, and explore alternatives is good, actually. The problem is in how Amazon abuses its workforce, crams its suppliers, self-preferences its own goods, and shifts wealth from taxpaying local businesses to its tax-evading coffers.



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr