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A Call to Bloggers: Stop Supporting Amazon

It’s common practice, especially in the theo-blogosphere to link to books at Amazon.  In fact, my whole desire to blog started after reviewing books on Amazon for a few years.  However, as Wipf & Stock co-conspirator and fellow theo-blogger, Chris Spinks has recently admonished us, theology bloggers who wish to support and theological study and promote new theological books and monographs really should be directing customers, not to Amazon, but to the publishers themselves.  Generally you will get as good, or better pricing through direct orders to the publisher and you’ll be supporting the industry that actually publishes the books we all love.  If you need to order used book, I strongly recommend that you use AbeBooks.  It’s an excellent service which lists books for nearly all the major used book dealers that list online.

I’ve tried to avoid just hating Amazon for the sake of hating Amazon, but I’ve finally been pushed over the edge and will not be supporting them in any way anymore.  As of yesterday, Amazon has announced that all publishers who use print on demand services other than their own company (BookSurge) must either switch, or have the “buy” buttons disabled on their products on Amazon.  In other words, Amazon is saying to publishers that all their print on demand books must either be published by them, or they will not be able to sell through Amazon.  This kind of attempt to strong-arm publishers in to lining the purses of Amazon just that much more is pretty despicable in my view, and bloggers who love theology and theological publishing should not support such a distrbutor.  I hope that my readers who blog will join me in no longer linking to Amazon, but linking directly to publishers and taking the few minutes of extra time to order direct from them, rather than fattening up the Amazon fat cats just because it’s a little bit faster.  Support theology.  Support the publishers.

17 Comments

  1. I certainly won’t be linking to amazon any more.

    Friday, March 28, 2008 at 6:44 pm | Permalink
  2. Jonathan wrote:

    Don’t know what the situation is in the area of theology, but I’ve heard anecdotes that in other fields authors can make more money from their Amazon affiliate links than from their actual publishers. That kind of sounds like an exaggeration to me but is interesting if true.

    Friday, March 28, 2008 at 7:38 pm | Permalink
  3. IndieFaith wrote:

    You likely know these links but a great search engine for used books is http://www.fetchbook.info/

    And a single source used book site that seems to spin an ethical twist is http://www.betterworld.com/ (they also have great shipping rates).

    Friday, March 28, 2008 at 9:00 pm | Permalink
  4. axegrinder wrote:

    I’ve been thinking about this issue for a while and definitely support your suggestion. The more small and local businesses we are able to support, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

    Friday, March 28, 2008 at 10:00 pm | Permalink
  5. ats wrote:

    amazon lost my support. period. anti-trust violations? I’m’ collecting news i find on this and posting on my anti-amazon blog – http://www.amazontroopsurge.com

    Friday, March 28, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Permalink
  6. adamsteward wrote:

    Me and Amazon, we’re through.

    Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 9:28 am | Permalink
  7. Jon Stock wrote:

    I’ll weigh in on Jonathan’s post briefly. I do know that authors make money from affiliate links, if tied to their own website. Publishers, in general, don’t offer the same support. On the other hand, publishers pay royalties that are more substantial than what Amazon pays (though still not that much). Other than issues of “local economy”, Competition, and middle class small business (which I think are all important), the reality for the consumer is that if a publisher’s costs go up due to tactics like Amazon’s — then the higher that retail prices rise. Most of us must maintain our margins in order to remain profitable and it is the consumer who ends up taking the hit (and author’s whose books are priced out of the market). Good academic books are already overpriced — cf. Cavanaugh’s Theopolitical Imagination ((and, yes, Wipf and Stock charges too much for their “fat” books). Amazon’s move, if they fully enforce it, will hurt accessibility and end up increasing prices. I’m already in conversation with other publishers about whether or not it is possible to create an alternative to Amazon within the niche market of academic biblical-theological publishing. Who know if any thing will come of it – but it is the nature of late capitalism, it seems, to encourage the type of bullying that we are seeing from Amazon, WallMart, etc…

    Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 10:33 am | Permalink
  8. randallr1 wrote:

    Amazon is a fantastic idea, amazingly well executed in a business sense. It certainly helped create the web as we know it today. But like Google and Microsoft, it can be affirmed that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!
    To use a theological analogy. The Devil is never satisfied. Amen?

    Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 12:48 pm | Permalink
  9. Author wrote:

    A good case can be made that what Amazon is attempting to do violates anti-trust laws. Waiting for federal anti-trust action would take many years–years to get the Justice Department to act, years of trials, years of fussing over what the court decision means. Notice how long it took to deal with Microsoft’s tactics, despite the fact that the corporations they were bullying were large and powerful. None of us can afford that long a wait.

    Action at the state level, however, could move much faster, particularly if it involves off-the-record contact and a somber warning from those who can make trouble for Amazon. Amazon is headquartered in Seattle about a ten minute drive from the office of the Antitrust division of the Washington state attorney general. Here’s the contact information:

    Office of the Attorney General

    Antitrust Division

    800 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2000

    Seattle, WA 98104-3188

    http://www.atg.wa.gov/Antitrust/default.aspx

    Telephone: 206-587-5510

    Fax: 206-464-6338

    Note the remark on that web page that “The Antitrust Division only processes complaints that involve either Washington State residents or businesses located in Washington State.” Amazon is in Washington state, so it matters not where you are. You might also want to raise the issue with your state attorney general’s antitrust office, asking them to get in touch with their colleagues in Seattle. If you’re a publisher, encourage your authors to write. If you’re an author, encourage other writers to contact them.

    Sunday, March 30, 2008 at 10:10 pm | Permalink
  10. Ben Myers wrote:

    Thanks for this post, Halden. This is a touchy and uncomfortable subject for me. Before I started blogging, I never used to buy from Amazon, since I preferred to support small booksellers. But nowadays, Amazon’s affiliates program pays for most of my own book-purchases — so, on the one hand, I always direct readers to Amazon; and on the other hand, most of my own books are purchased from Amazon using affiliates credit; and in turn, I always purchase my (free) Amazon books from other bloggers’ sites so that they’ll get a commission as well — which of course reinforces the whole cycle! Wretched man that I am!

    On the positive side, of course, it’s clear that (for good or ill) linking to Amazon does generate higher book-sales. For example, when I praised Rowan Williams’ “Wrestling with Angels” in a recent post at F&T, my link to Amazon immediately generated dozens of sales. I can’t believe that this would have happened with a link to Eerdmans, or that the net benefit to Eerdmans would have been greater if I’d simply linked to their own site. In other words, I don’t think it’s a real solution simply to link to publishers, since this will always lack the convenience of a one-stop online hub. (And for non-American shoppers, the high shipping costs make it virtually impossible to order books individually — bundling orders is the only way to bring down the exorbitant shipping costs.)

    Anyway, I don’t mean to sound self-justifying… I’m just describing my own entanglement with Amazon. And in any case, I reckon places like Abebooks, Alibris and BetterWorld are better alternatives than linking directly to publishers.

    So it would be terrific to see John’s proposal carried out: “whether or not it is possible to create an alternative to Amazon within the niche market of academic biblical-theological publishing”. I’d just hope this alternative site could also have an affiliates program, and could have the option (at least to some extent) of reduced shipping for bundled orders.

    Sunday, March 30, 2008 at 10:51 pm | Permalink
  11. simone wrote:

    listen I am one of those small, honest sellers who has been on amazon for at least 6 years.
    Sellers have been outraged by amazon for years, but amazon started banning people from posting anything on seller soapbox several years ago.
    how amazon has screwed small sellers has been well documented.
    oh yes now that scoutpal has been invented there are many illegal aliens from mexico etc who sell books but dont speak English.
    by the way, abebooks has also gone downhill once all the mega garbage sellers flooded it about 4 years ago.
    I just bought a book from them and it was a fake storefront- instead a mego seller sent me the wrong book.everyone at amazon spent a lot of time saying class action lawsuit etc but it never happened
    they have really nasty lawyers/
    remember Jeff fired his entire customer service staff when they tried to unionize.
    another thing is Jeff owns an Internet company in China- how not cool is that?

    Monday, March 31, 2008 at 10:48 am | Permalink
  12. Why is there so much Amazon animosity? What have they done?

    Monday, March 31, 2008 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  13. Halden wrote:

    Umm, read the post and you’ll see?

    Monday, March 31, 2008 at 8:42 pm | Permalink
  14. Jon Stock wrote:

    Halden, it is rather interesting the number of “outsiders” the post has attracted. It almost looks like you’ve been hi-jacked. I certainly don’t want to agree with the xenophobia above, but I do agree that ABE has gone down hill, they used to be the best service. Nevertheless, I do use them rather than amazon.

    Really, the Amazon stuff is a case study of some of your earlier discussion regarding capitalism. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Theology has much to say about economics, even if it is merely speaking subversively to “power.” Some day a thread on “local economy” might be interesting.

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 7:30 am | Permalink
  15. Chris wrote:

    Steve Kippel,

    On your website you link to Prophetic Heretic, Jesus Radicals, and Submergent. Surely you will find answers there as well.

    -Chris

    Thursday, April 3, 2008 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  16. As a seller on Amazon for over 4 years I can’t agree with you more. I was banned from selling there for buying insanely priced books from Elephant Books. They would list books I was competing with that had a market value of $100-$2000 for $2 and when I ordered they simply cancelled…over and over and over and would immediately relist the same title at the same impossible price.
    Amazon sided with them due to their huge volume and booted me.
    Also NEVER, never EVER support Better World Books as on response suggested. They are anything but ethical. They con libraries and other institutions into donating books to them under the guise they’ll be given to less fortunate countries. In reality they pull all the good, useful books to sell, give the garbage away and the libraries get virtually nothing.
    For more on this go to Amazon’s Seller Soapbox and punch Better World Books into the search box…It will become instantly clear how ‘ethical’ they really are.

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008 at 4:27 pm | Permalink
  17. Thom wrote:

    Thank you for posting on this. Amazon’s recent POD debacle has lifted the lid and revealed a company that I, for one, am sorry to have ever been associated with. Up until then, my impression of Amazon was as a friend to bloggers and the Internet community in general. Now I see that this opinion was altogether and wholly in error. The bullying from Amazon has been so egregious that I have decided not to buy from Amazon, even where the price is better and the delivery quicker. The Internet is a priviledge. Pundits have been saying for years that deep pockets and side deals will eventually marginalize it. Every dollar to Amazon is a vote toward this marginalization, in my opinion. Thanks for opening up the discussion.

    Wednesday, May 28, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

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