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Old 03-19-2014, 02:28 AM   #1
cybmole
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if you'd known this, would you still have bought a kobo

I wouldn't have.

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/20...nd-whale-meat/

...according to a new report (pdf) from the Environmental Investigation Agency, an NGO, one of the world’s biggest digital companies is facilitating not only a brisk business in illegal ivory, but also the sale of meat from endangered whales

Rakuten Ichiba—the Japanese online marketplace of Rakuten Group,......


While I would normally ignore the actions of a parent company when they are legal, sometime around the 5th or 6th time this story crossed my radar I was struck by the contrast between Amazon and Rakuten.

As my regular readers probably know, Rakuten own Kobo, the Canadian ebook firm, and that leads us to a rather curious situation. Many people in digital publishing love to hate Amazon, often attacking the retail giant for its business practices. I wonder how they will react to the news about Rakuten?

On the one hand, we have a retailer which is viciously competitive, while on the other hand we have a retailer who deals in endangered species.

Okay, Rakuten technically runs a marketplace where other people deal in endangered species, but that point is irrelevant. Amazon not only doesn’t deal in this morally repugnant trade, they have even banned any mention of ivory or whale products from their Japanese retail website (so has Google).

I am not going to pressure you to in any way respond to this news, but I do want to leave you with this thought. The next time you read a rant about how terrible Amazon is, just remember that they are now the lesser of the 2 evils, and that Amazon’s strongest global ebook competitor after Apple is actually a greater evil than Amazon.


if there's any sensible way for us Kobo owners to register disgust/protest, please advise.

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Old 03-19-2014, 03:44 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by cybmole View Post
if there's any sensible way for us Kobo owners to register disgust/protest, please advise.
I guess my question would be whether Kobo is the right target. Kobo is owned by Rakuten, so Rakuten has some control over, and hence responsibility for, what Kobo does. But Kobo doesn't control Rakuten, and so can it be held responsible for what Rakuten does? Would it do any good to apply pressure to Kobo if it has no control over Rakuten?

The comparison between Amazon and Rakuten seems fair, but if Amazon was doing something evil like this, would it make sense to take action against some other company that has no connection to the issue other than being owned by Amazon?
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Old 03-19-2014, 04:00 AM   #3
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Let me get this right..
You want me to stop buying product from a company because they sell stuff which is on your endangered species list ?.

My reply to you is, "Supply and demand" why is there a demand for the product that they are selling ?.
Surely your energies are better used in, stopping/trying to get, the buyers of that product to change their habits, after all THEY are the one's buying it, not me.

The more you try to prevent the supply side from providing the goods the pricier the commodity becomes, and there will ALWAYS be someone willing to pay the price asked.
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Old 03-19-2014, 05:54 AM   #4
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I think I agree with leftright. If we don't like that the Japanese effectively kill whales and elephants, we should probably try and convince them not to. Not that it's gonna be an easy feat, since Japanese culture, for all their outward fascination with the Western world, is very self-contained.
(I also think the moral issue here, like all moral issues, is very complicated, but that's a different story.)
And yeah, even if we consider Rakuten's actions evil, and even if we boycott Kobo in a way that lets Rakuten know why exactly we do it, we still hurt a company that makes great devices and overall keeps the market competitive. I don't hate Amazon and I think it actually deserves the success it has, but I would hate it if it became a monopolist. It'd be bad for them and it'd be bad for us customers.
(I also think my Aura HD is the best reader in the world, but that's yet another story.)
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Old 03-19-2014, 05:55 AM   #5
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>leftright so you'd be ok with Ratuken operating a for-profit "slik road" style marketplace for hard drugs, contract assassins, child porn... after all - that's only supply and demand also

surely it's a question of where you draw the line.

Its not unreasonable IMHO to hold Ratuken to at least the minimal moral standards used by ebay/amazon marketplaces - & if they won't do that, then to do nothing that enriches the parent corporation - ( Like buying a book from the kobo store)

>hoichi - I agree with you about the aura HD- shame it's not made by nicer people.

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Old 03-19-2014, 07:57 AM   #6
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Looking things up Amazon only blocked sales of ivory in Japan last march, at least ten years after they launched their marketplace there, so I'm not sure how fair it is to assign them the moral high ground. Not to mention other questionable business practices like their widely publicised tax avoidance.

Additionally, it's not at all clear what the 'illegal' claim refers to here. In particular whether Rakuten are doing anything illegal (under Japanese law) or whether those who should be held legally responsible for the illegal trade are the marketplace seller or the japanese government. It's also not clear as to what measures the company does take. For example, if the company provides a report functionality then how many reported illegal products get taken down?

I'm not defending Rakuten, I'd agree they should block this, but this does seem a one sided report designed to build up pressure rather than a rounded look at the situation.

Of course some of the problem is down to the Japanese Government's attitude, so if you're serious about boycotting anything that gives money to those that support this then you'll need to avoid all Japanese products and companies that trade with Japan.

In short, worth being aware of but I'd want a more balanced view before avoiding Kobo because of it.
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Old 03-19-2014, 08:10 AM   #7
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No. I am shocked and embarrased. I will not knowingly support a company with such ties.
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Old 03-19-2014, 12:46 PM   #8
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Okay, Rakuten technically runs a marketplace where other people deal in endangered species, but that point is irrelevant
Guilt by association - fairly lame at that.

The Japanese have been killing whales and dolphins since forever
as well as buying up endangered bluefin tuna and putting it in cold
storage as a financial speculation.

If you want it to stop, then boycott all things Japanese.

When you find your house empty of most electrical goods and no
car in your garage, you may start to have an effect (it may hurt
Amazon's sales though).
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Old 03-19-2014, 03:18 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by leftright View Post
My reply to you is, "Supply and demand" why is there a demand for the product that they are selling ?.
Surely your energies are better used in, stopping/trying to get, the buyers of that product to change their habits, after all THEY are the one's buying it, not me.

The more you try to prevent the supply side from providing the goods the pricier the commodity becomes, and there will ALWAYS be someone willing to pay the price asked.
I guess you could make the same argument about the sex trafficking trade. Don't do anything about the people who are kidnapping people and selling them into slavery. Concentrate on the people who want to buy them.

Perhaps in some cases it makes sense to go after both the supplier and the buyer.

Having said that, in this case, where I can't imagine that a boycott of such a tiny part of a large company would have any impact, I'll continue to go ahead and purchase the Kobo as long as it is the best device for me.
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Old 03-19-2014, 04:42 PM   #10
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I guess this makes the Aura HD in Ivory that much more special...

And frankly, a real bargain.
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Old 03-20-2014, 12:19 AM   #11
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I guess you could make the same argument about the sex trafficking trade. Don't do anything about the people who are kidnapping people and selling them into slavery. Concentrate on the people who want to buy them.
There are some fv*k*d up minds in this world, Sociopaths and Psychopaths, who will ALWAYS buy and sell anything amoral as long as there is demand. Ivory is bought by housewives and men who want nice ornaments, it denotes power and status. Rhino horn is bought by Men who want flashy handles for their Arabic daggers and the Chinese think it's a aphrodisiac, it would be very easy to stop the trade in these two items buy destroying the "DEMAND". In these two cases, Rhino Horn and Ivory, arrest the arabs with flashy daggers and arrest anyone with ivory ornaments, also prove that rhino horn is not a aphrodisiac to those ignorant people who believe in that myth.

The market/demand for coral jewellery was sustained by Europeans, (nice girls who weren't in the least perturbed about the origins of the jewellery), who would buy the trinkets when on holiday in the tropics, The market/demand vanished when the EU banned the import of any coral, coral is rescued because the demand has vanished.

Slavery was abolished buy removing the demand for that product.

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Old 03-20-2014, 03:44 AM   #12
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As a Norwegian who enjoys a bit of whale steak now and again (from decidedly non-endangered minke whale, mind), I am a little perturbed by the premise of this discussion :-)
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Old 03-20-2014, 04:02 AM   #13
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As a Norwegian who enjoys a bit of whale steak now and again (from decidedly non-endangered minke whale, mind), I am a little perturbed by the premise of this discussion :-)
so you are OK with killing and eating something that is far more intelligent than you are ?
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Old 03-20-2014, 04:40 AM   #14
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so you are OK with killing and eating something that is far more intelligent than you are ?
Are you sure about that?

I've never seen a whale using an eReader...

What would a whale read, anyways? Moby Dick, a classic revenge fantasy? Of course, the publisher would want to change the name to: Kill Ahab
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Old 03-20-2014, 05:40 AM   #15
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but could Moby Dick have been smarter than captain Ahab? Melville certainly seemed to think so. Moby clipped off one of the captain's legs and then, years later, in a brilliant move of cetacean jujitsu, drowned poor Ahab by towing him into the abyss by the harpoon rope tangled around Ahab's remaining leg. "From Hell's heart I stab at thee!"

http://www.scientificamerican.com/bl...er-than-we-are

as for elephants: much evidence of intelligence and of human traits mostly lacking in Corporate CEOs:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_cognition
Elephants are amongst the world's most intelligent species. ...
Elephants exhibit a wide variety of behaviors, including those associated with grief, learning, allomothering, mimicry, play, altruism, use of tools, compassion, cooperation,[4][5] self-awareness, memory, and language.[6] Further, evidence suggests elephants may understand pointing: the ability to nonverbally communicate an object by extending a finger, or equivalent.[7] All indicate that elephants are highly intelligent; it is thought they are equal with cetaceans[8][9][10][11] and primates[9][12][13] in this regard. Due to the high intelligence and strong family ties of elephants, some researchers argue it is morally wrong for humans to cull them.[14] The Ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, once said that elephants were "the animal which surpasses all others in wit and mind."[15]

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