I’ve been working to avoid using Amazon for the last few months. There are a few reasons for this which basically boil down to the fact that I think Amazon’s business is bad for America. They continue to use labor practices that are anti-worker. They continue to pursue profits at all costs. They defensively acquire and shut down competitors in what can only be called anti-trust. They just played two major cities into giving away billions in tax revenue for a false promise of high-paying jobs and amazing growth.
This is the kind of unbridled late-stage capitalism that I cannot stomach. It’s a scorched earth approach that cannot support or countenance. I envision a world that works in a completely different way to the world that supports, empowers, and even celebrates a business like Amazon.
The first step was to stop buying books from them. I wasn’t a big book buyer from them to begin with. I tend to buy used through ThriftBooks or Better World Books. I also borrow a lot of books from the library. The first hint that this whole challenge might be harder than it seems was when I found out that AbeBooks is owned by Amazon. So, strike that option.
It’s clear to anyone who bothers to pay attention that local bookstores have suffered mightily in the world that Amazon built. Even large competitors like Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble are struggling to battle the overwhelming juggernaut of Amazon. Authors are generally cagey when it comes to talking about Amazon but many of them bemoan the rampant piracy and review-fueled sales marketing that lives within the Amazon ecosystem. As a lover of writing, books, and the conversations they germinate, I simply can’t ignore how Amazon has destroyed much of the book industry.
Next, I had to stop buying other things from Amazon. Things like wrenches, vitamins, shoes, and watches were all things I’d purchased through Amazon. I also bought a lot of gifts for others through the site because the shipping was easy given my Prime member status. To discourage myself from buying these things, I canceled my Prime account. That forced me to consider other options. This has been difficult because it means shopping from lots of other sites and doing more comparisons and bargain hunting. Still, if I need something immediately, I’ll buy locally. If I don’t need it immediately, I can wait more than two days.
Once I was out of the habit of buying from them, it made the Amazon Echo in our house easier to unplug. That had the benefit of also stopping our family from being spied on. We did miss some of these features like the Question of the Day that might my son and I had fun with and being able to shout for a timer while cooking in the kitchen.
Another avenue of Amazon getting my business is cloud computing. While I do work in the technology world building web applications, my employer doesn’t use any Amazon services. Unfortunately, avoiding using sites that do use Amazon web services is exceedingly difficult and would likely mean my stopping using the Internet altogether. This alone should frighten everyone into questioning what Amazon is doing on our world.
Lastly, and what brought all this to mind this evening, is that I am an avid user of Goodreads. The site is owned by Amazon. Today, I remembered that I have a lifetime paid membership to LibraryThing. I set about importing my collection when I decided to look up more about the history of LibraryThing. Turns out that back in 2006, AbeBooks bought about 40% of LibraryThing. That was before Amazon owned AbeBooks but it now means that Amazon owns almost half of LibraryThing.
This all leads me to ask if there is any book-related community site that isn’t owned, funded, or otherwise reliant on Amazon? I’d love to track my reading, organize my collection, meet other readers, read reviews, and get recommendations but I don’t want any of that to help Amazon make money.