Over at TNR Ruth Franklin defends Amazon from its detractors. I love Amazon. I live in a place that has two cities about fifteen miles apart with a quarter of a million people or so combined. There is a Barnes & Noble in Midland and a Hastings (which sells books, music, dvds, video games and the like) in Odessa, and those are fine, but Barnes & Noble, even with my member card, does not exactly provide discounts on its books, and while B&N has a pretty extensive collection, nothing matches Amazon for either competitive pricing or variety.
If we had a great independent bookstore in the area I would surely provide it with my custom occasionally, but when I am working on a book or article there are times when I will need to get a number of books and will not want to use the library, especially if these are books I'll use again and again for current and future projects. Amazon is a lifesaver for those of us not surrounded by myriad bookstores that compete with one another for price and variety, and for those millions of readers who live in places much smaller than I do Amazon has surely transformed their options. Amazon is not ideal. But I'm sure glad that it exists.