What’s Wrong with Amazon?


(from the awesome Busboys and Poets Bookstore)

“Amazon’s business practices are ‘scorched-earth capitalism.’ They don’t win unless they destroy their competition and then rub their noses in it.”
–author Dennis Lehane in Richard Russo’s “Amazon’s Jungle Logic”, New York Times, December 12, 2011

Amazon is a destructive force in the world of bookselling. Their business practices undermine the ability of independent bookstores—-and therefore access to independent, progressive, and multicultural literature—-to survive. Additionally, Amazon is harmful to local economies, labor, and the publishing world.


Cheap books aren’t always a bargain

• Cheap books are really publishers and authors receiving less: this doesn’t support the future of book publishing and quality writing. Amazon can offer “discounts” because they are cutting other costs: taxes, publisher payments, author payments, and safe-labor practices.

• Amazon has strong-armed many publishers into reducing the prices of their books and eBooks. In some instances when publishers have refused, Amazon has removed the “buy” button from the pages of the publishers’ books. This tactic threatens the ability of publishers to survive in an industry with an already low profit margin. (Read more: Books After Amazon)

• Amazon uses “loss leaders” to gain an unfair pricing advantage over their bookselling competition. Selling certain books (or Kindles) at a loss or no profit entices customers to their website to buy big ticket items (often non-book items, like electronics, since books are only a tiny fraction of Amazon’s Walmart-esque business model).

• Amazon refuses to pay taxes in most states, even when they have a physical presence there. By not paying state sales taxes, Amazon gains an advantage in pricing perception over independent bookstores because their prices seem lower by 5 to 8% (the sales tax rate in most states).

Working in an Amazon warehouse literally means working in a sweatshop

• Amazon’s Pennsylvania warehouses get so hot in summer months that Amazon keeps ambulances outside of the buildings to rush employees to the hospital. Employees must keep a brutal production pace even during heat waves or they risk being terminated. (Read more: Inside Amazon’s Warehouse)


Stand in Solidarity with Independent Bookstores

Authors: When promoting your book, use links to independent bookstores instead of linking to Amazon.

Organizations: If your organization is promoting a book, direct your supporters to our store instead of Amazon.

Professors: Encourage your students to buy their classroom texts from independent bookstores or even bring them on a field trip to our store.

Teachers and Librarians: If your school has a budget for book purchases, use a local, independent bookstore instead a large wholesaler or Amazon. It teaches your students the importance of supporting the local economy while giving a boost to an independent bookseller.

Book Buyers and Bookstore Lovers: Educate your community about boycotting Amazon and use your book budget to support independent bookstores and their web stores.


Further Reading

Ten Reasons to Avoid Doing Business With Amazon.com
The Nation | May 31, 2012

Amazon, Innovation, and the Rewards of the Free Market
The Authors Guild | February 16, 2012

Author and Independent Bookstore owner Ann Patchett talks Amazon with Steve Colbert
The Colbert Report | February 16, 2012

Amazon’s Jungle Logic by Richard Russo
The New York Times | December 12, 2011

Open Letter to Amazon.com by Daniel Ellsberg
www.ellsberg.net | December 3, 2010

Amazon withdraws ebook explaining how to manipulate its sales rankings by Benedicte Page
The Guardian | Jan. 5, 2011

Kindle: How To Buy A Book But Not Own It
The Hartford Courant | Aug. 6, 2009

By Law We Must Collect Taxes: A Call to Action
Politics and Prose Bookstore Blog | August 11, 2011

Amazon Pressured on Sales Tax by Verne G. Kopytoff
New York Times | March 13, 2011

Against Amazon
An online archive to to educate consumers about the problems and politics of doing business with the beast.

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