Fascinating and infuriating at the same time

Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets and How We’ll Win Them Back
Authors: Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow
Publisher: Beacon Press
Pages: 295

Someone might think that Chokepoint Capitalism by Rebecca Giblin and Cory Doctorow must be dry reading. On the contrary, the authors expose a ruthlessness and greed that is shocking to behold. It’s riveting to read how a few companies control most of the marketplace. If you want to become informed or takes steps to bring about change, this is a helpful guide.

A key concept hurting suppliers and workers is monopsony: buyers having power over creators of content. When sellers have power over buyers that is the more commonly known monopoly. The largest companies are not just powerful sellers. They are major buyers that reduce the rates paid to producers and suppliers. To illustrate with a personal example, I am an independent publisher of books by a particular author. If I want to see them sold in the biggest markets, I must accept the rates established by the seller. Alternative options that provide higher rates of return may come at the cost of significantly lower sales.

Despite showing how effectively competition has been reduced readers are not left without hope. The authors provide practical suggestions, including what has made a difference in specific situations. They show that joining with like-minded individuals for small beginnings can upend the status quo.

Personally, I wonder if I should try to make less use of the entities whose philosophy and practices are disappointing to say the least? With limited alternatives it seems like most creators are resigned to what they offer because it can be a matter of survival. I guess I’m one of them having been helped more than hurt. I respect, however, the authors for refusing to allow DRM on the electronic and audio editions of this book. They don’t want readers to be locked into one platform.

More then ever this makes me want to support independent artists and suppliers. We might see their projects advertised through various funding campaigns.

It’s puzzling that the major players don’t seem to recognize that justice and generosity can be rewarding and profitable. Even if this were not true, a respected name and integrity are of more value than great riches.

I imagine there are more like me that want to support endeavors that care for more than just the bottom line. Short term thinking can jeopardize the potential for having repeat business and loyal customers. Unfair practices and policy are not the way to go. A poor reputation will mean fewer customers.

The authors provide an excellent historical perspective and they make even the more technical aspects understandable even though I had to read some sections more than once. It’s just that I’m not familiar with some of the concepts. I learned a lot and my interest never wavered. It’s fascinating and infuriating at the same time.

As others have rightly pointed out, true success is measured by how you treat others. It’s a lesson that even corporations can learn in how they relate to not only customers but their employees. I appreciate how the book makes me think along these lines.