I sell my books on several different platforms, and one of those - the main one - is Amazon. It's something I'm not that happy about, for reasons I'll get into below. But it's basically a necessary evil for me: easily three quarters of my sales come from Amazon, so if I ever want to grow my readership and make enough sales to be able to spend more of my time writing, then Amazon needs to be part of the journey.
But there are alternatives to Amazon, so I want to make sure you know they exist and know why you should consider using them. And if you're supporting me by buying my writing (which I'm super grateful for, by the way) I'm asking you to help me avoid putting any more money in Jeff Bezos' pocket than is necessary by buying through an alternative platform.
the problem(s) with Amazon
The problem is that Amazon gets rich by not paying what's fair: whether that's paying their taxes, paying their workers, or paying for the environmental cost of their business.
"During the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon became a trillion dollar corporation, with Bezos becoming the first person in history to amass $200 billion in personal wealth. Meanwhile, Amazon warehouse workers risked their lives as essential workers, and only briefly received an increase in pay."
When it comes to working conditions, you've probably heard the stories already: Amazon workers who have to piss in bottles because they don't get adequate toilet breaks, and Amazon's underhanded tactics to undermine their workers' attempts to unionise or to demand better conditions. And that's not to mention the workers in places like Cambodia and Bangladesh, who aren't directly employed by Amazon but are working in shit conditions as part of their supply chain. Basically, Amazon is getting rich at the expense of workers who aren't fairly looked after.
They're not just getting rich off the backs of their underpaid workers off though, they're getting rich off the back of society at large. Amazon are particularly good at managing to pay little to no tax. What that means is that they're making billions off of the infrastructure that other people's taxes provide, while not paying their fair share back to society to contribute to a well-functioning society.
Amazon’s success would be impossible without the public institutions that citizens built together over generations. But instead of giving back to the societies that helped it grow, the corporation starves them of tax revenue through its world beating efforts at tax dodging. In 2019, Amazon paid just 1.2% tax in the US, the country it is headquartered in, up from 0% the two previous years.
And of course there's the environmental effects. Amazon has made some improvements in that area over the last couple of years, including a pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040. But their carbon footprint is bigger than two thirds of the countries in the world combined (wtf!?) and has continued to increase at a time when we all know that's no longer sustainable. And yeah they've put in place a pretty hefty fund to help with climate change related projects, but that's not really good enough when they're causing far more environmental damage than what they're helping to clean up.
It's my fault too though
Maybe I'm a hypocrite for saying all this and still selling my books on Amazon. I'm fully aware I can't try and tell you that you should be boycotting them if I'm not willing to put my money where my mouth is and boycott them myself. But like I said earlier, cutting out Amazon means cutting out the vast majority of my business, and means i
And I want to be clear: it's not that I'm saying Amazon should go fuck off and die or anything. The existence of Amazon has provided some incredible benefits, like creating a way for people like me to self publish, and creating a whole ecosystem of indie writers. That changed the world. If only they could do it a little bit more ethically, by forgoing a little of that mega-profit and directing it to their workers, their taxes and the planet.
what I'm asking of you
Obviously I'd really like you to buy my book if you think you might like it. And if Amazon is your preferred - or only possible - way of purchasing it, then by all means please do buy it from Amazon.
But what I would ask is that if you've decided you want to buy my book, and you're trying to decide which platform to buy it through, consider choosing one of the alternatives instead of Amazon. That way we're doing less to prop up an unethical business model, and voting with our feet to tell Amazon they need to do better if they want our business.
If you're looking for alternatives the links are all right there on my website. Smashwords is probably the one I'd recommend. That's partly for selfish reasons: they give me the best cut (about 25 cents more than Amazon and Google, and about 50 cents more than all the other sites - which doesn't sound like much but definitely adds up!) But also because they're a smaller business with less of the ethical baggage that comes with some of the bigger mega-companies. But any of the alternatives will do - there's Google Play, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.
And if you want to go a step further make sure you check out and support Make Amazon Pay. You can sign their petition and find out more about their campaign. The more people who are vocal the more likely Amazon is to improve.
(Quotes are from Make Amazon Pay's Common Demands, which can be found at makeamazonpay.com)