I own a Kindle and do most of my reading on it. It’s a great way to keep up with authors whose books are hard to find or out of print and beats hell out of loading up a suitcase with multiple books when taking a trip.
I published Wild Bill to Kindle last August and have several more books in the pipeline. (Wild Bill was also published for Nook, but I have since learned the middle two characters in “Nook” describe my first three months’ sales there.) The 70% royalty is a good deal, and it was easy to do. I’m in the process of formatting my next book, and it’s not rocket science, either.
As you can see, I’m tied to Amazon both as a customer, and as an author. Now I feel a little icky about the whole thing.
It started last summer, when word got out about the inhuman conditions workers at Amazon’s Lehigh Valley (PA) had to endure or face dismissal. (Note to too many journalists: the word is “inhuman.” “Inhumane” is how animals are treated.) Earlier this week I learned of Amazon’s efforts to evade California’s attempt to get them to pay sales taxes like every other retailer, which included paying a company three dollars per signature to get a referendum on the ballot. (Amazon has since come to an agreement with California pending the resolution of federal legislation. I wonder how many campaign contributions will be made each way on that issue?) Yesterday’s bombshell was my learning of The Evil Empire’s newest campaign to undermine brick-and-mortar stores by offering shoppers discounts for reporting competitors’ prices back to Amazon via smart phones.
It’s not like Amazon is just trying to level the playing field. They already have dramatic advantages over traditional sales outlets due to lower overhead (which is fine, a direct result of not providing personal assistance, a choice retailers make for themselves) and not paying sales taxes (which is, frankly, an unfair competitive advantage for Amazon). Isn’t making money hand over fist enough? Do they have to subscribe to the Michael Corleone School of Business and crush everyone else? And, when they do, what can we expect from them when we really have no place else to buy or sell?
This kind of decision has been easy for me in the past. I don’t care for Wal-Mart’s business practices, so I don’t shop there. I think the economy in this allegedly Christian nation will not be brought to its knees if the families of retail and manufacturing workers can have one day a week to spend together, so I don’t shop on Sundays unless there is no way around it.
Now Amazon has proven the old saying is true: I laid down with a pig and got dirty. I feel like I joined up with the Imperial Fleet to see the galaxy and found out I'm working for Darth Vader, The question is, what do I do about it? Doing nothing is the same as saying I’m okay with Amazon’s rapacious business practices. Doing too much will hurt only me; Amazon won’t care if I set myself on fire on the roof of the Library of Congress.
- Here’s where I am today (I mean “today” as I write this. I’ve already changed my mind on this half a dozen times, so this is a fluid position):
- I’ll continue to publish to Kindle. I make more money per sale than they do, and no one has to work in triple-digit heat to ship my books.
- I' ll pick a short list—ten, maybe—of writers whose books I’ll have a hard time getting elsewhere and buy them for my Kindle. See warehouse note above.
- I’ll buy the books of other authors who are in much the same boat as I am, on the premise that I’ll hurt them more than I’ll hurt Amazon by boycotting the site altogether.
- Other books will be read either after purchase from a brick-and-mortar store or from my public library.
- I’ll bust Amazon’s balls at every opportunity.
Am I fooling myself into thinking this will making a difference? No. It might if enough people do it, and someone has to go first.
Here’s my question: is my level of rationalization/hypocrisy too great to overlook? I freely admit there some in here, but I have to make my peace with the world as I find it, not how it would be if I were In Charge.
Please comment, and solicit comments from others if you’re so inclined. I’m genuinely curious about this. What do you plan to do, if anything? Why, or why not? Am I making too much of this? Not enough?