"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 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. According to David Cohen, “The loss of revenue is immense, adversely affecting citizens in our ability to support our children with education, to serve the ill through Medicaid, and to protect our neighborhoods with adequate police and fire services.” (Read more: By Law We Must Collect Taxes: A Call to Action)
There is movement in many states to charge Amazon for past-due sales taxes. Amazon has avoided paying by promising to build warehouses and create jobs in exchange for multi-year tax exemptions. These exemptions cost states hundreds of millions of dollars that could be going to education or infrastructure. (Read more: Amazon Pressured on Sales Tax)
By refusing to collect 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).
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)
Amazon’s eBook reader, The Kindle, demonstrates Amazon’s “scorched earth” approach to competition. They created an eBook reader that is proprietary. All books loaded onto The Kindle must be “purchased” from Amazon – and they remain the property of Amazon. All other eBook readers on the market allow customers to buy eBooks from a variety of sources, including independent bookstores. (Read more: Kindle: How To Buy A Book But Not Own It)
The great selection of eBooks available from Teaching for Change’s Busboys and Poets Bookstore cannot be purchased for The Kindle, but they can be purchased for any other type of reader, including Nooks and iPads.
We suggest that the best readers available are the ones that allow eBook purchases and downloads from a wide variety of sources. (eBooks matrix)
Authors: When promoting your book, use links to independent bookstores, like ours, instead of linking to Amazon. Join these authors who already link their books directly to our webstore: Dave Zirin, Naomi Klein, and Peniel Joseph.
Organizations: If your organization is promoting a book, direct your supporters to our web store instead of Amazon. Our allies at the Institute for Policy Studies have a “buy this book” button that goes directly to our web store. Are you buying books for professional development for your staff? We offer bulk discounts.
Professors: Encourage your students to buy their classroom texts from independent bookstores. Rona Frederick of Catholic University, Sarah Stiles of Georgetown University and Tony Medina of Howard University support our social justice mission by actually bringing their students to our bookstore, demonstrating that it is better to buy books from independents, not Amazon.
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. We gladly accept purchase orders from schools.
Book Buyers and Bookstore Lovers: Call your state/local politicians and urge them to collect sales tax from Amazon, put the revenues into improving school facilities, and increase teacher pay. Most importantly, use your book budget to support independent bookstores and their web stores.
Washington Post, Bezos Must Disclose Relationship With CIA: Media Watchdogs
MintPress News | December 26, 2013
The Mercenary Position: Can Amazon Change its Predatory Ways?
Harper's Magazine | December, 2013
Amazon, Innovation, and the Rewards of the Free Market
The Authors Guild | www.authorsguild.org | February 16, 2012
Author and Independent Bookstore owner Ann Patchett talks Amazon with Steve Colbert
Ann Patchett interview by Steven Colbert | The Colbert Report | February 16, 2012
Novelist Ann Patchett discusses the importance of brick-and-mortar bookstores and explains what prompted her to open Parnassus Books in Nashville.
Amazon’s Jungle Logic
Op-ed by Richard Russo | The New York Times | December 12, 2011
Inside Amazon's Warehouse
The Morning Call | February 24, 2012
"When you order a book from Amazon.com, do you know why it's so cheap and arrives so fast? Because employees at an Amazon warehouse are literally working in a sweatshop. Details emerged last week of working conditions so horrendous that Amazon keeps an ambulance parked outside." Read more.
By Law We Must Collect Taxes: A Call to Action
by David Cohen | Politics & Prose Bookstore Blog (D.C.) | August 11, 2011
Amazon Pressured on Sales Tax
by Verne G. Kopytoff | New York Times | March 13, 2011
Books After Amazon
by Onnesha Roychoudhuri | Boston Review | Nov./Dec. 2010
An online archive to to educate consumers about the problems and politics of doing business with the beast.
Kindle: How To Buy A Book But Not Own It
by Michael Seringhaus| The Hartford Courant of Yale Law School | August 5, 2009
Amazon withdraws ebook explaining how to manipulate its sales rankings
by Benedicte Page | guardian.co.uk | Jan. 5, 2011
If you are looking for used books, consider using the Teaching for Change portal at Powells.com. Sales help fund our bookstore and publication operations.