Category Archives: Amazon

Would You Stop Buying Books from Amazon.com to Save the Book Industry?

Boycotting Amazon’s bookstore might mean, at least initially, that you’ll have pay a little more for books, or you’ll wait a little longer to get them, but it will also mean you’ll be more likely to enjoy the books you do purchase.

Ban Amazon

As Amazon’s dominance approaches that of true monopoly, the influence of all other booksellers is virtually eliminated.  As a result, the discoverability of books is driven by a revenue-maximizing-algorithm rather than curated by a caring human being who knows both books and their readers.

Exploiting their monopolistic power Amazon has become 100% vertically integrated—controlling every aspect of a book’s  production all the way to its sale to the reader.  As a result, Amazon exerts enormous control over authors and publishers. This directly controls the books readers have available to them.  Increased pressure is placed upon every book’s profitability, and potentially great books are not produced as riskier books can not be supported under Amazon’s business model.

Amazon’s treatment of books as loss leader and exploiting 3rd party vendors who often sell remaindered, review, or even pirated or stolen copies of books allows readers to enjoy low priced books. It is unreasonable to assume that these discounts will continue once Amazon’s competition has been completely eliminated. Border is gone, B&N, is in decline, and sales by independent bookstores are paltry compared to total book sales. Amazon already owns the sale of books on the world wide web.  In fact, Amazon sells 43% if everything sold on the web!

Related Reading:
The problems are far more complex and profound that I have presented above.  Please consider reviewing these articles that touch on different aspects on why Amazon’s dominance is bad of all of us, not just for those of us who care about the importance of books.

Boycotting Amazon’s bookstore is one small way we can have an effect.  We can no longer wait for Amazon’s monopoly to be broken up by ur government.  Too much damage has been done already.

Would you consider helping to organize, or joining an effort, to a boycott the buying of books from Amazon to reverse their control of the book industry so they we can enjoy better books and more of the profit they generate?

Please fill out the form below and let us know what you think.

The survey is now over. You may review the results and comments here.

Amazon‘s Echo Look: Exploiting Our Inner Narcissist

The depth to which a corporation will sink to exploit our insecurities and separate us from our money knows no bounds.

Amazon now wants to tell us how to dress.  I can hear is now,

“Alexa, do these jeans make me look fat?”
“No, but these jeans, for $79.99 (free shipping), will improve your look. Make sure you share this with your friends.”

Do we really want an organization, motivated solely by money, to become such an integral part of our lives? Is it in our best interest to give Amazon so much of our personal information, not just want we are wearing, but also what insecurities are?

By giving Amazon so much of our personal information we help them, and anyone else they sell our information to, exploit us for profit.  We are being manipulated without our knowledge and in ways we can‘t fully appreciate or comprehend.

Protect yourselves by protecting your privacy.  

The government is not going to help protect you.  Journalists will let you know what is happening and help you understand why it matters, but their platforms and reach are being weakened every day, and are no match for the slick presentations of Amazon.

All of this while Amazon eliminates jobs across the country.

Back in September of last year (2016), the American Booksellers Association and Civic Economics released a full update of their “Amazon and Empty Storefronts” study.

“The updated study again shows that — whether it’s in dollars lost in sales and property tax revenue, far fewer retail storefronts serving local communities, or significant job losses — Amazon has a massive, overall negative impact on the American economy,” said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. “We need to come to grips with the fact that every American consumer is paying a high price for Amazon’s growth.”
—“Updated Study Drives Home Amazon’s Negative Impact on Economy” By David Grogan, Sep 28, 2016

ESSENTIAL NATIONAL FINDINGS 2015 (read the full report)

  • In 2015, Amazon sold $55.6 billion worth of retail goods nationwide, all while avoiding $704 million in sales taxes.  The cost of lost sales taxes falls equally on state and local governments.
  • These sales are the equivalent of 39,000 retail storefronts or 133 million square feet of commercial space, which might have paid $528 million in property taxes.
  • A total of more than $1.2 billion in revenue is lost to state and local governments.
  • Amazon also operated 75 million square feet of distribution space, employing roughly 111,000 workers.
  • Even counting all the jobs in Amazon distribution centers, Amazon sales produced a net loss of 222,000 retail jobs nationwide.

How Amazon Impact Job Growth and why it matters

5 Things Writers Must Do To Survive Online

Today, despite all the technology and social media at our disposal, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the average writer to earn a living through their writing.  A few powerful corporations are reversing many of the benefits and gains writers have achieved as a result of the World Wide Web (Web).  This does not have to continue.

Almost twenty years ago, the Web became available to the public, to utilize in ways limited only by our imaginations.  By the late 1990’s software made it easy for writers to create their own websites and blogs.  Coupled with the self-publishing revolution, fueled by print on demand and ebooks, writers were able to publish anything they wanted.  They were also able use the Web to attract and interact with their target audience.

fas typing at keyboardIt was an exhilarating time as the volume and variety of stories and ideas that were expressed online increased dramatically.  Gatekeepers at corporate owned media no longer controlled what was published.  Rejection was no longer based upon what was deemed most marketable or appealed to a particular editor.

Not only could writers publish anything they wanted, they could also earn money for their efforts.  The more successful writers might be able to earn a living, the most successful ones could become wealthy.

Unfortunately the Web is rapidly becoming controlled by a handful of very powerful corporations.  These powerful corporate entities hinder the efforts of writers to independently connect with their readers and generate revenue using their own platforms.   These corporations are solely interested in maximizing revenue.  The adverse impact on writers, or the world wide web itself, is seemingly of no concern.

In the relentless pursuit of more revenue, these powerful corporations are killing independent websites using a number of tactics including controlling what is discoverable through search (reference: “Google is King — not Content” and “Google Worsens Web Experience by Retuning Poor Search Results”).

These corporations are also exploiting the efforts of writers who feel it is necessary to give their content, to the wealthiest of corporations, just to reach an audience they are no longer able to reach with their own websites.  Ironically, these writers are giving their content to the very same powers that are colluding to thwarting their own independent efforts, further exacerbating.  The barriers to entry are back up.

Writers can survive, even thrive, online but we must do things differently.  Here are just five of many potential actions that can help.

1 – Establish Your Own Website
Every writer should have their own website.  A Facebook fan page or a presence on any other social media website is not the same thing.  Indeed hosting your content solely on a social media platform only enriches the corporation that owns that platform.  Register a domain name and take advantage of one of the many applications like WordPress to create your own web presence. [Editor’s Note: We can link your domain name to your AALBC.com pages for free.]

I’m not suggesting that one should not have a presence on social media.   However, I do suggest that social media be used to direct people to your website, where your actual should reside — not the other way around.  Telling a potential reader to, like you on Facebook, or find you on Twitter, not only gives Twitter and Facebook free advertising, but it also sends readers visitors to those websites where they usually stay.  Direct readers to your website first.

I also discourage using social media as your primary platform because all the revenue generated, as a result of your work, goes to the corporation who owns the platform.  Your writing on most social media sites is fleeting, from the reader’s perspective.  Unless readers are online when you post your content, they are much less likely to see it, given the deluge of other information they are bombarded with.  Social media also controls, in ways not made clear, who and how often your writing is seen.  Writers feel increasingly pressured to buy, relatively expensive advertising, just to have their writing noticed on the social media platform!

Retrieving and organizing older content is often very hard if not impossible.  You don’t even control your own contacts — but the social media site does.   What happens when the social media site goes away?  How many of us have abandoned MySpace profiles and all the content and connections created there?  Building your own mailing list is still a much better way to reach your readers.

Finally, privacy is a huge problem.  How your data is used, shared with others, and monetized is completely out of your control.

2 – Link to an Independent Book Store’s Website for Online Sales
If you visit any author’s website and you should find a link to purchase their books online.  Some authors fulfill their own online orders, but you will often find a link to Amazon.com as well.  Every author should also provide a link to an independent bookstore’s website to facilitate online orders wit that store.  It does not matter which one, just pick one that can fulfill orders directly.

By linking to a independent store for online sales you also increase the potential for in store sales and promotion.  You will also help promote the store, increase the store’s potential to generate revenue. and build valuable goodwill.  If you need help finding an independent store to support you may visit IndieBound.org or our site for a list.

In discussing this idea with some authors, a couple mentioned they are uncomfortable linking to a single store because they don’t want to show favoritism to one store over another.  Sure there is a risk a store may become upset over not being listed on a given author’s website, but not linking to any independent stores while maintaining a link to Amazon just hurts the independents and enriches Amazon even more.

save revolution booksIt is true the web has made purchasing books much more efficient and certainly less expensive.  It may also be true that these efficiencies have resulted in the need for fewer bookstores, certainly poorly run stores.  This however, combined with the bankruptcy of Borders Book & Music and Barnes & Noble’s recent announcement of their plans to close at least 20 stores a year over the next decade, means many of us will no longer have access to a brick and mortar bookstore, let alone an independent one.

Independent book stores play an important role for both writers and the reading community.  We must actively support them if we want them to remain open.   Today Amazon sells more books than every other bookseller combined.  Do we want a world in which books can only be purchased online from Amazon?

Side Bar: Here is information on two independent stores, at risk of closing, that have asked the community for help; Revolution Books in New York City and Marcus Books in the San Francisco.

3 – NEVER Link to Amazon Without Using an Affiliate Code
AmazonI get information on books every single day with links directing me to Amazon.  Amazingly, the vast majority of these links do not have affiliate codes applied.  By joining Amazon’s Affiliate Program and applying an affiliate code, an on-line bookseller can generate commissions of up to 8.5% on books from Amazon.  This excludes authors residing in Arkansas, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Rhode Island, or Vermont (as of August 2016 read Amazon’s operating agreement for more information).

Failing to use an affiliate code is simply leaving money on the table.  If you can’t, because you live in one of the previously mentioned states, or don’t want to join Amazon’s affiliate program.  You can very easily use AALBC.com affiliate code.  Just substitute your book’s ISBN-10 in the following URL: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385535988/ref=nosim/aalbccom-20

Not only does this generate commissions for AALBC.com, providing us with much needed support, but books sales generated through these links also count toward AALBC.com bestsellers list.   This will result in a lot of free promotion for any book that makes the list.  This is win-win for the author, AALBC.com, or any on-line book seller whose affiliate code is used.

The affiliate code rule applies to all of the large corporate booksellers including Barnes & Noble.com, Booksamillion.com, iTunes, etc.  I chose Amazon.com, for this example, because it is the site authors most frequently link to and Amazon also has a well run affiliate program.    If any big corporate site does not offer an affiliate program, I suggest that you stop sending visitors to that site to purchase books.

4 – Link to Other Independent Websites
When individuals began creating websites in the mid 1990’s, before there were search engines, people would recommend other websites they found interesting and useful, by providing links to those websites.   Often it was as simple as creating a list of “Favorite Websites” or a “Related Links” page.   Groups of related websites often banded together and formed webrings (a set of sites linked together in a circular structure).  Before “social” media became the rage, the web was actually more collaborative — it had to be.

Today, the majority of writers provide free promotion for large corporate social media websites by prominently placing social media logos and linking to them from their websites.  At the same time, links to independent websites has become a thing of the past.  Over the last few years, I’ve seen far too many book platforms; stores, websites, magazines, blogs, book review, and other related sites struggle in obscurity or just wither away partially because of the lack of support from other websites.

In order for writers to thrive online we need an environment with healthy, robust and diverse websites dedicated to writers, books and related subjects.  Linking to websites you like is just the start, but also visit them periodically and read, share and critique their content.

5 – Stop Writing for Wealthy Websites for Free
I recently wrote an article called, “The Pimping of Wikipedia.”  In the article, I describe how the work of countless researchers and writers, laboring for free, is taken by Google and Amazon and used to generate revenue.  Amazon’s “Shopping-enabled Wikipedia Page” is a carbon copy of a Wikipedia page with anything that  can be purchased from Amazon hyper-linked to enable an immediate purchase! Here is an example a Shopping-enabled Wikipedia Page for a prominent author.

coporations want information for freeThe monetization of Wikipedia by Amazon is a brilliant idea, but why would any writer volunteer to enrich Amazon without sharing in any of the revenue generated?  The same goes for volunteer Huffington-Post bloggers or writers who publish content on social media websites.

Somehow writers have been duped, by large corporations, into believing that the small potential for notoriety is ample compensation for their work; which collectively is used to generate millions and millions of dollars of revenue.  I remember how disappointed and angry some writers were when the Huffington-Post was sold to AOL for $315 million.  Meanwhile those writers continued to receive no financial compensation for their work.

There is a often quoted slogan floating around the Internet, “Information Wants to be Free”.  It is almost a cliche, but it also utter nonsense in the context of our capitalist system.  Anything of value is always sold and purchased, why is a writer’s work any different?   A more accurate slogan might be, “Corporations Want Information for Free ”, so that they may exploit it for monetary again.

Social media sites can thrive fueled solely on user generated content.  Content written by everyday folks, just being… social, and that is fine.   Those contributors get to exchange rumors, celebrity gossip, jokes, their personal minutiae and play games in exchange for a platform to engage in this activity.  They also agree to be inundated with advertising, mined for information and exposed to spammers.

Professionally trained writers need, deserve and should demand more in exchange for their craft.  The best reviews are written by professional reviewers, the best news coverage is written by journalists.   Writers who give away their writing to a fantastically rich corporations, for free, are engaged in high tech sharecropping.  Where are writer’s unions when you need them?

Sharecroppers pick cotton in Georgia in 1898 (Library of Congress) - Sharecroppers on Wessyngton Plantation

Sharecroppers pick cotton in Georgia in 1898 (Library of Congress)      –       Sharecroppers on Wessyngton Plantation

Readers looking for quality writing will gravitate to where quality writing resides.  Writers generating quality content should be paid for their efforts.  We just need to work together to ensure this continues to happen.

Finally, Do Something
I hope you will consider implementing one or more of my suggestions.  I also hope you will share this article with other writers.  If you have any other suggestions please add them in the comments below.