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The Trouble With Amazon

February 22, 2010

Admittedly, I buy almost all of my books from Their low prices combined with quick shipping, great review features, and their handy Wish List make book shopping from my desk easy, fast, and–most importantly for me–reasonably affordable. Rarely, unless it’s the new DeLillo novel, will I buy a book new. For the most part, good quality used books can be purchased through Amazon’s site from other vendors that also benefit from Amazon’s ubiquity in the book market. With that, I border-line covet the Kindle (but I’m resisting for now) and am curious what the company will unveil next.

All this having been said, I feel guilty for always shopping there first. Adam Robinson, of HTMLGIANT, recently posted an article discussing the questionable practices of Amazon, especially regarding small press, independent book publishers and authors. Calling themselves “the internet literature magazine blog of the future,” HTMLGIANT is a great source for information about e-lit and independent publishers in a market that is more and more difficult for small literary outfits. It is a shame that it takes articles such as this to remind me of the effect corporate monoliths like (or Walmart) have on local, independent markets. C. Wess Daniels, at Gathering In Light, was discussing this around Christmas and his well written thoughts can be read here: Let’s Have an Christmas This Year.

Robinson highlights that the deep discounts offered by Amazon are not a product of a fantastically efficient business model that cuts costs that others can’t, but instead it is taken from the authors and publishers and the loss if further exacerbated by forcing small  publishers to incur four separate shipping costs because Amazon demands that publishing houses fulfill obligations in many different warehouses for Amazon. In the end, though, most authors want to see their books on the digital shelves of Amazon’s great house of books because that’s where people (including me) look first so they are willing to put up with razor-thin margins for the exposure.

I wish I could say I will change this habit, but until someone starts paying me handsomely to sit and read I am forced to shop on a strict budget and Amazon is the best place to get that done. As a small contribution, though, I have begun linking to Powell’s, instead of Amazon when discussing texts on this blog. It’s not much but since I’ve never been an Amazon affiliate, nor do I have enough readers to make that even the slightest bit profitable, it’s a small change that can rest my guilty soul a bit when I consider the effect Amazon is having on the publishing market and independent bookshops that are closing left and right. Support your local bookshops however you can and, more importantly, read!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 3, 2011 7:31 pm

    I haven’t put too much thought into this debate before. On a budget, Amazon is wonderful. I’ve been approaching Amazon as a consumer, rather than a writer, mainly because I have never written a book. I have to wonder, though, if I had a book, or two or three, published, would it matter precisely where the profit was coming from? Whether through Amazon or local bookstores, discounted shops, or full-priced sales? It would matter to me that my book was being purchased and read by whichever means, more than just making a profit.


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