Please Don't Support Amazon

Amazon is a problem. It's so ubiquitous and such a part of our everyday that it's easy to overlook, but Amazon as an entity is worthy of some examination.

Amazon doesn't want to dominate the marketplace, they want to be the marketplace, and in many ways they're already succeeding. They target other competitors and purposefully starve them out. One way Amazon has done this is by taking enormous losses—sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars—by setting prices on specific products so low that other companies in that industry can't possibly compete, and they have to eventually sell out to Amazon. This has happened to both Zappos and Diapers.com; they were targeted and taken out. There are other companies they've sunk with similar tactics—most we'll never know about because they were such small businesses that they barely got off the ground.

In terms of books specifically, Amazon has transformed the market. Ask any bookseller, publisher, or author. Because Amazon is so huge (CEO Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world, folks), they do things that are not difficult or costly for them in an attempt to grab a piece of the market, and then close up the operation, leaving at least one local business to wallow in its wake. They do this in college towns; they set up a physical store where students can get their textbooks cheaper than the local bookstore who's been there for decades. It's a no-brainer which store will get more business. Amazon's books are cheaper, and students need money. Amazon strikes a deal with the university; the professors tell the students to go to Amazon. The local bookstore goes under (or is at least well on its way), and shortly after, Amazon closes up and moves away, leaving behind some pick-up/drop-off locations. This happened at Purdue; I've heard it straight from the mouths of the folks who went out of business.

If you lament the decline of independent bookstores, please don't support Amazon.

Amazon gives the impression that they sell their books cheaper—which at the moment you search for something, is true, sure. But have you ever wondered why new book prices have seen such a quick, massive rise? We largely have corporate booksellers like Borders (RIP) and Barnes & Noble to thank for this, but Amazon is a huge reason. Publishers had to start making more profit per book because Amazon could set their prices so low. It all creates a situation where everything in the industry is being funneled a certain way; it's all getting homogenized. It's harder for small publishers and authors to survive, the stuff that's already been published suddenly costs more, and a lot of the new stuff coming out is strongly derivative of what's already been successfully published—and is ultimately not very good. (I'm mostly talking about books coming out from the big publishers—who themselves are conglomerating, largely thanks to Amazon.) Also, sidenote, Amazon is a horrible place to find new and exciting titles, authors, and publishers. It recycles the same stuff based on algorithms for sales, but does not know us at all, does not understand our sensibilities like we give it credit for.

If you need to buy a book and want it used, you can check to see if any locals have it; you can probably call 'em up and ask. I'm sorry we don't have more bookstores in Columbus; I'm working on that. If you can't find it physically and must buy it online, I recommend betterworldbooks.com and thriftbooks.com. They often have titles for cheaper than Amazon anyway. Better support them now before they too get swallowed up. And if you're looking for a new book and your local bookstore doesn't have it, they can probably order it for you, or if it's on a smaller press you can usually order it straight from their website.

I haven't even touched on Amazon's relationship with ICE and other police forces, their recent developments in facial recognition software and surveillance, their exploitative treatment of their employees, the massive job loss they are responsible for, how Jeff Bezos invests his money, etc. etc. If you want to learn more, I recommend the article in the November 2018 issue of The Sun magazine, and other recent unsettling articles from The Intercept and The Washington Post. Make no mistake, Amazon does not want businesses like Bookspace to succeed.

Also keep in mind that Amazon now has many names: Whole Foods, Zappos, Audible, AbeBooks, Goodreads, etc., but it's all the same company and mentality. In counteracting Amazon, we too can use a diversity of tactics. First and foremost is to consider its place in our lives, and to realize that we can do without it. Then proceed by not giving them any more of our money. Please don't feed the beast. We don't want to see what it looks like in a few years.