Amazon Announces Purchase of English™

April 1, 2013 | 25 2 min read

SEATTLE – Amazon announced today that it has acquired the English language and plans to fully privatize the world’s predominant mode of written communication. As of 6 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time April 1, anyone writing in Amazon’s proprietary language, now known as English™, will be obligated to pay a “licensing fee” to the Seattle-based online retailer.

The purchase of English™ for an undisclosed sum in cash and stock completes Amazon’s meteoric rise from an online bookseller to a global behemoth dominant in the spheres of online retailing, cloud computing, and digital publishing. It remains unclear who sold English™, though credible reports suggest that Apple and Google had earlier offered to buy the language, only to be outbid by Amazon at the eleventh hour.

“We are pleased to add English™ to our growing family of products,” said an exultant Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “We just bought GoodReads last week, and we already own Audible.com along with numerous digital publishing platforms, so buying the language outright was an obvious next step. This way, we will be able to put the Amazon stamp on the creative process itself, rather than merely on the finished product.”

Plans are also in the works to acquire German, Spanish, French, and Mandarin Chinese, Bezos said, as well as several nonstandard forms of English™, including African-American Vernacular English, popular among the highly desirable 18-25 upscale suburban demographic. Bezos denied claims that Amazon has offered to buy the Arabic numeral system, though he said the company could not rule out the possibility of such a purchase “if the price was right.”

Responding to concerns that Amazon’s purchase of English™ could have a chilling effect on literature and indeed on free speech in the English™-speaking world, Bezos said writers and publishers have nothing to worry about. “Frankly, that’s just scare talk,” he said. “We’re not saying people can’t use the language. We’re simply saying that if you plan to write it down, you’ll have to pay us a fee.”

Oral speech will remain free, Bezos said, so long as it isn’t written down or recorded by an electronic device. Every English™-speaking person will be allowed a “fair-use” quota of 500 words per day, which he or she can use to send emails to friends, make grocery lists, comment on Facebook posts, or write self-flagellating journal entries. For those who exceed their daily quota, Amazon will offer a variety of licensing options ranging from a simple per-word fee to so-called Unlimited Scribbling™ plans for novelists, bloggers, and others who can’t stop writing even if no one is reading their work.

Under the new licensing agreement, however, any profit from an individual’s words will belong exclusively to Amazon, and in the event that any written document longer than 500 words finds interested readers, Amazon will lay claim to all earnings the document brings in. If a writer shows signs of building a steady readership, Amazon may increase a writer’s daily quota of free words in order to, as Bezos explained, foster “cultural production” and thus boost shareholder value.

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This article has been terminated as its author, Michael Bourne, has reached his daily quota of 500 words in English™. If you wish to reach him, he is at home teaching himself to write in Tagalog.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

is a staff writer for The Millions and a contributing editor for Poets & Writers Magazine. His nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Salon, and The Economist. His fiction has appeared in Tin House, December, The Southampton Review, and The Cortland Review. www.michaelbournewriter.com

25 comments:

  1. Excellent article. I especially liked the goodhearted ribbing of writers:
    “For those who exceed their daily quota, Amazon will offer a variety of licensing options ranging from a simple per-word fee to so-called Unlimited Scribbling™ plans for novelists, bloggers, and others who can’t stop writing even if no one is reading their work.

  2. I hear corporations were already buying the rights to rainfall in some African countries even before they bought the votes of Americans….

  3. I’d tell you how much I loved this, but am too cheap. xo Amy (May have words to sell at the end of the month, if you’re interested) Koss

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