BOOK REVIEW: Fulfillment by Alec MacGillis

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5/5 stars

On the surface, this book looks like it will tell you what you already know: that Amazon is evil and we’re basically powerless to stop it, that their employees work in horrific conditions, and that, no matter what they claim on Twitter, the peeing-in-bottles thing is real. But Alec MacGillis does far more: Fulfillment isn’t just the story of Amazon, it’s the story of the changing economic landscape of America and the changes, positive and negative, Amazon has left in its wake.

This is a masterclass in journalism, with MacGillis looking at various towns across the country that have become dominated by Amazon–through distribution centres, data hubs, and their own headquarters. But more importantly, it looks at the human cost of this expansion, from local businesses closing down to laid-off factory workers struggling with Amazon’s aggressively anti-union messages in their new jobs. MacGillis examines the ways cities have changed around Amazon, from the aggressive courting process of the HQ2 search to the homelessness crisis in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle, caused largely due to the influx of well-paid professionals driving up the rent in traditionally working-class/POC neighbourhoods. And most of all, it reveals that as bad as you think it is, it’s actually so, so much worse.

Amazon is here to stay, across the world, but if anything would inspire you to cancel your Prime membership, this might just be it.

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