How to Resist Amazon and Why
By Danny Caine
128 pp. Microcosm Publishing. $13.
There are few things that unite everyone today. It seems, at least here in America, we can’t even agree on the importance of combating global warming, or of ensuring that adequate regulations are in place so we have clean air and water.
“Job killer!!” People on the right yell the moment any mention of regulating a major industry comes up.
How can you tell the coal miner in West Virginia that we need to move away from fossil fuels? That such jobs carry with them not just severe consequences for our environment, but for their health as well?
After decades of calls to better regulate the pharmaceutical industry over the mass marketing of addictive opioids, it seems as though some progress is finally starting to be made. Patrick Radden Keefe’s recent book Empire Of Pain: The Secret History Of The Sackler Dynasty shows that politicians on both sides of the aisle, however slowly, are finally attributing blame for overdose deaths and addictive pharmaceutical drugs not on the people who get addicted to these drugs, but on the drug companies themselves — unless you’re the Trump White House of course, but that’s another story.
But what about Amazon?
Talk to people today and they’ll nod their heads sadly as you run over the ways in which workers in Amazon’s fulfillment centers are made to meet absurdly high quotas, the fact that the company founded by the world’s richest man pays no federal taxes, and the number of independent businesses the online behemoth puts out of business every year.
“But I can order a banana costume and it’ll get here tomorrow!”
“But they sell the new John Grisham novel for so much less than the independent bookstore in town!”
“But where else am I going to listen to audiobooks?”
1. Do you really need that banana costume? If so, have you tried your local party story?
2. Isn’t it worth paying a few dollars more so that your local independent bookstore (which you can also support by ordering online at Bookshop.org) can keep serving the community?
3. Have you tried Libro.fm?
But that’s not to say avoiding Amazon is easy. I’ve written hundreds of reviews on Goodreads, which is owned by Amazon, and that is absolutely crushing. I’ve started, gradually, to write my reviews here on this site instead, but that doesn’t replace the community aspect of a site like Goodreads which allows you to meet people who like books as much as you do.
There are an increasing number of Goodreads substitutes — such as The Storygraph and BookSloth — but they are still in their early stages and suffering some growing pains. However, after reading “How to Resist Amazon and Why” I’m definitely going to open an account on one of these other sites and say no to Amazon in every form it comes in.
Until then, it’s useful to seize on something that Danny Caine — the owner of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas — writes here. Because Amazon has its tentacles wrapped around so much of the retail industry in America, it’s awfully hard to avoid it in every form. You don’t have to completely quit Amazon, though that is certainly my goal, so much as you should strive to spend more of your money at independent businesses.
Meaning, instead of buying that book from Amazon, buy it from your local independent bookstore. That’s an easy step to take and buying from your local independent bookstore will make far more of a difference to them than not buying it from Amazon would. This is partly because Amazon sells their books at a loss, a completely unfair practice that works for Jeff Bezos and Co. because their company is worth nearly $2 trillion, meaning they can afford to take the hit, while that independent bookstore would never be able to sell their books at Amazon’s rates — less than what those books cost from the publisher — because they wouldn’t be able to stay in business.
The fact that the majority of politicians fail to see any issue with that, fail to recognize Amazon as a dangerous monopoly that threatens the livelihood of so many wonderful small businesses in America, is yet another indication of how rotten our politics has gotten.
But what is most unfortunate are those authors and artists who sell out to Amazon, creating Audible exclusive content that you can’t get anywhere else or signing a deal with Amazon to publish and market their books directly — as that sellout Dean Koontz did in 2019.
I recently watched Best Picture Winner “Nomadland” which is the perfect case in point for the influence Amazon yields over, well, everything.
Unlike Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, Chloé Zhao’s adaptation says not one negative thing about the company. In her book Bruder talks about the harsh working conditions at Amazon facilities, interviewing a number of people who spoke from personal experience. Zhao’s film, meanwhile, is totally mum on the subject. When someone asks Fern — the character played by Frances McDormand — what it’s like working in an Amazon fulfillment center, Fern replies, “great money.”
Zhao and Co. reportedly received a lot of input from Amazon while filming the adaptation, with executives visiting the set the day filming took place in the Amazon facility. As much as I otherwise really liked other aspects of the film, I can’t think of anything more disgusting than that — whitewashing a significant part of the source material and betraying the subjects of your film by portraying one of the villains in a positive light.
This is a great read on all the ways that Amazon harms human beings, independent business, and the environment in order so you can have that thing you don’t even need tomorrow.
Yes, Resist Amazon. The fight will be long, and it will be hard, but it’s a fight worth having.