How to stick it to Amazon just a little bit

You’re not a bad person, are you?

Neither am I.

So why are we still buying books almost exclusively from Amazon?

Convenience, range, and low cost play a big part of that.

Most people LOVE Amazon for all those reasons.

Why Amazon is a bad idea

There’s a bunch of ethical reasons why supporting Amazon puts you in a very black karmic hole. Don’t worry, none of us are alone in there. Some of us are in rather deeper than others.

The truth has been out for a looooooong while:

  1. Amazon treats its workers like … well, you know.
  2. Amazon has only been paying its taxes in the UK for 2 years and is still avoiding taxes in other countries.
  3. It has effectively monopolised the book market.
  4. It dictates the minimum that self-published physical books can be sold for, with non-neg fees per word, per page, and per book, in addition to material costs and its own profits.
  5. It keeps authors’/indie publishers’ profit margins tight, selling at huge discounts, making it harder for them to survive and continue bringing us great books.
  6. It only sells e-books in the Kindle (.azw) format, which means they cannot be transferred to a new device, so readers lose out on books they already bought.

But still we use its services to buy our books, paperback, e-book, colouring books, literature. Its supermarket model has seriously worked well for users. We’re all suckers for discounts, delivery, wide choice, and above all, convenience.

It’s hard to break the habit.

Most of the time, half-measures is a totally ineffective way to do something. Boycotting Amazon sometimes is surely a lip service event. It’s not a boycott at all. But the way I see it, any sale made elsewhere is one for the team. Do what you can.

How to escape the relentless Amazon octopus (sometimes)

The most common complaint from users is that it’s hard to find books away from Amazon. It’s more like if Amazon decided to offer you books categorised only by publisher. Or by author. Or by format. Or you get a choice, but it seems limited, so you have to visit a few websites to find what you want.

#firstworldproblems, no?

With the new year coming up, it seems like an opportune time to make an effort to stand behind a few principles. The best way for me to do that is to create a structure and a habit.

Use these tips and processes to find ethical e-books and paperbacks and boost the publishing industry without missing out on choice or contributing to the misery of badly treated fulfilment pickers.

Enjoy doing things differently

Learn how to get e-books onto your device

Many people (you know who you are) don’t know how to get a book onto their e-reader unless they buy it from Amazon.

If you’re that person, you need The Epubizer! This brief, but useful website explains how to get any e-book file from a bookshop or publisher on to any device. If it matters to you to shop at independent bookshops instead of just going to the big guys, for whatever your ethical reasons, The Epubizer is here to make that transition easier.

Bookmark lists of independent bookshops

We’ll start you off: this list of DRM-free e-bookshops provides you with a wide choice of independent e-book sellers. All you have to do is click and go, bookmark, and return to the list for the next one. Keep them all together in your bookmarks toolbar, and browse whenever you feel like it!

You can add to your bookmarked list at any time, should you come across a new indie book store you’ve never seen, and keep expanding your horizons.

Follow authors you like on social media

Most author contracts require writers to have a social media presence, and that’s where you’ll find out more about their books, when they’re released, and where they’re being sold. Many authors and publishers sell their books direct through a website, as well as being available on the usual big websites.

Buying books direct won’t cost you more, but it means the author gets a much larger royalty, and if you buy a paperback, they sometimes include unadvertised extras. It may also be signed.

Paperback readers can support local booksellers too

If you prefer paperbacks, research the books you want (on Amazon if you must!) and order them through your local bookseller instead. Supporting local businesses is an extra step you don’t have to take, but it’s a doubly good thing if you do in this case.

The Plan

I’m going to make a reasonable attempt into buying more books direct from publishers, authors, and independent book stores. I already know of a lot of different online bookstores. Some are more exclusive, such as Scarlet Imprint (esoteric publisher) and Emily Books (‘weird books by women’); others are a little more fun, like Smashwords, an e-book-only distributor. There’s also Humble Bundle to consider, and a host of individual indie bookstores and publishers, such as Angry Robot, Canelo, and Weightless Books.

There’s plenty to go at, it’s just a case of being a bit organised.


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