Monday 26 December 2011

Boycotting Amazon...

People are always talking about how Amazon is 'killing' the independent bookshop, and nowhere is this more obvious than in my adopted county of Kent. Currently in Kent there is a grand total of ONE independent bookshop selling new books, and then there is Waterstones. And that is it. There are a fair number of second hand bookshops and charity shops selling books, which is great, but I can't help but feel that the fault lies (mainly) with online shopping in general, and with Amazon in particular. From the point of view of books, Amazon and The Book Depository are definitely the cheapest and easiest ways to get hold of things, and I know I'm very guilty of using them both when I just must have a title right then and there. Also I use Amazon for the purpose of gift buying and sending RAK's, but this is about to change, I hope.

In 2011 in the UK the British Bookshops chain has closed, leaving the high street for the most part without a 'cheap' alternative to Waterstones for new books. In the US, the Borders chain which vanished in the UK in 2009, has given up altogether. All in all, it's not been a great year for bookshops. Although I am not saying that all of this is entirely Amazon's fault, they are definitely benefiting from it, and recently they did something very stupid, that I don't really want to get into because it makes me angry, and if you don't know what I'm referring to you can check it out here - Richard Russo and co put it much better than I ever could!

This actually enraged me. I quite frequently get upset about the state of the world and how horrible people are to each other. Personally, it bothers me that online shopping is destroying communities. I don't want to live in a world where the only option is to shop online or in big, anonymous superstores. I like the personal service. I love that there are still bookshops you can go in and talk to staff who genuinely adore books, and who will talk recommendations with you for ages and get excited about passing on the books that they love. Yes, there is 'Amazon Recommends', but it really isn't the same...

Because of this, I have decided to combine my 2012 book buying ban (which will, let's face it, probably fail drastically at some point during the year) with a boycott of Amazon. For this, I am going to attempt not to use Amazon at all for anything  during 2012. I am also going to try to do most of my shopping in the real world, rather than on the internet. I am hoping that for this I can actually last out the entire year. I have no illusions that by doing this I will be making any great impact, but personally I think that I will feel better to be less hypocritical. To put my money where my mouth is and to say no to Amazon and online retailers putting people out of jobs, and preventing me from being able to talk books with equally geeky people. If ever I do have children, I wouldn't want to bring them into a world without bookshops. That would just be depressing. If anybody wants to join me they are more than welcome! Wish me luck!

What are your thoughts about the online shopping phenomenon? Does Amazon make you angry or do you love it with a passion?


  1. This is very interesting. I live in Spain but I read everything in English. The problem? Most Spanish bookshops have, at the most, two shelves with books in English. As a consequence, I always use Book Depository. It doesn't help either that the greatest local library in here knows the compulsory reading for my degree and increases their price up to a 300%.

    But I miss buying in the real world, going to a bookshop, touching the book before deciding whether to buy it or not. The simple fact of saying: "Today I'm going to a bookshop! Let's see what new books they have!"

    This has been impossible in the last years when I have always missed my parents buying me books. The only solution I came up with, is to read more books in Spanish. Although I'd love to have them in English I love it even more when my parents dedicate the book to me, because it's them who brought it from the shop, whose time was spent looking for it.

    Obviously mine is a different case, but I agree with you in how much I miss the real life book shopping. It is also great that you address the issue, since most people take shops and jobs for granted... but then, whose's friends keep their jobs?

  2. That's interesting. I really didn't think about the problem with buying books in English. obviously for me it isn't a problem but I can see how Amazon would end up being your only option!

    I love the excitement of browsing in bookshops, and you do lose that online. Do you read much in Spanish as well, or mostly just English?

  3. An interesting post, Bex. Intriguing. However, a few points to mull over.

    Have you not considered the vast number of independent booksellers on Amazon? Without Amazon, these sellers would not be able to operate, due to the high rents on traditional street-level shops. If anything, the world wide web marketplace is a vibrant springboard for independent sellers - and not just of books!

    Also, consider the wider picture of literary enterprise on the internet. The internet provides fertile ground for aspiring writers to get their material out there in the public domain, to perhaps make some profit out of their loved craft, to receive some feedback, positive or negative. Would any high street shop touch the majority of these developing artists with the proverbial bargepole? No. No they wouldn't.

    And on the subject of recommendation, I can name a plethora of authors I would never have discovered if not for the internet, whether it be something as automated as "Amazon Recommends...", user's top lists, forums, or just accidentally clicking through on a link.

  4. Yes I do completely understand all of that. I'm not saying that everything about Amazon is bad, just that from my own personal viewpoint the internet is taking away valuable business from my own community and I feel that I need to get away from online shopping and support that community before it's too late.

    As for the independents who sell via Amazon, it's obviously great that Amazon affords them that opportunity, but as I have said, I still wouldn't get the atmosphere of a physical bookshop by using these retailers online.

    As a blogger, obviously I place huge value on the internet as a way of getting recommendations and for interacting with people. Really, this is partly an experiment to see if I can be less dependent on online shopping, because for all its good points (and there are a lot!), so many shops have closed in my local area lately that I can't ignore it as a contributing factor, and I like shopping as a social experience. I'd miss it if it was all supermarkets and chain stores..

  5. I have only used Amazon twice in my life, when I was given a gift card and virtually had no choice. A third Amazon gift card was given to me about 2 years ago and I simply regifted the card to a friend in need. Although authors/independent booksellers can use Amazon to market themselves/their product(s), the return they get is so little! Bezos negotiates their profit margins to so little it's hardly worthwhile! And there are other options for Indie booksellers. I am preparing to place my first book order with Book Depository and cannot wait, knowing that my sale is just one more that Amazon will NOT have! I knew I liked you!!! ;)