The National Consumer Law Center recently highlighted electronic billing pitfalls and called on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ban such company efforts to force customers to go paperless. A new federal initiative being considered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is forcing American investors into a digital-only (paperless) situations without consent. The SEC’s “Investment Company Reporting Modernization Rule” would allow mutual funds to discontinue the mailing of shareholder reports and other important investment information to investors. Instead, shareholder reports would be posted on a fund’s website. The article in The Hill reminds us that a significant portion of the population lacks regular Internet access, for example: •over 30 percent of all Americans still lack broadband •41 percent of Americans over 65 years of age do not use the Internet at all •nearly half of minority households lack regular Internet access.
With the opening of Amazon’s Chicago bookstore in the city’s Southport Corridor section last week, the company now has five Amazon Books outlets and announced plans for five more. Though Amazon took 10 months between opening its first store in Seattle and its second in San Diego, Calif., the pace of openings and announced openings has quickened.
The e-commerce giant opened two outlets last year and added one in Dedham, Mass., in February. Amazon has announced plans for stores in Bellevue, Wash.; Lynnfield, Mass.; New York City; Paramus, N.J.; and Walnut Creek, Calif.
The stores share some basic characteristics, such as displaying their books face out, carrying digital devices and accessories, and only stocking books that receive high ratings from Amazon reviewers. In a new wrinkle added after the first few stores opened, customers who are members of Amazon’s Prime membership service receive the same discounts they get for online purchases; books are full price for nonmembers. Most stores, which range from 3,500 to 6,000 sq. ft., employ around 20 booksellers and staff.
There are some differences between the outlets, however. The two newest stores, for instance, have small cafés (the Dedham store serves Peet’s coffee, while in Chicago it’s Stumptown), and each store carries books that Amazon has determined will appeal to neighborhood buyers in such categories as travel. The Chicago outlet is also the first store not in a mall and is the only one whose doors open at 8 a.m. rather than 10 a.m., as at the four other locations.
Though no specific dates have been announced for when the new outlets will open, an Amazon spokesperson confirmed that all are on track to open this year. How many more stores the company will open remains a mystery, but there have been numerous media reports that Amazon is looking in the Los Angeles area. If true, that would be in keeping with the company’s preference for coastal state locations.