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How Filter Bubbles are Created on Facebook (or Boycotting Amazon's Bookstore is a Religious War)


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Karen Quinones-MIller, one of the first bestselling authors on AALBC.com. Shared my "Would you Stop Buying Book from Amazon to Save the Book Industry" questionnaire with a group on Facebook. In fact, it was her very first post to the group. I'm not a member of the group, but Karen tagged me on a few replies so a read them and decided to reply. 


It was the first time I've engaged on Facebook in substantive way in a very long time.  This exchange demonstrates how filter bubbles are work and are created, which is one of of the reasons I'm posting the entire exchange ere. 


I engaged with two people who disagreed with me. After I'd stopped commenting, one of them wrote that they were going to report my comments to the group's admin in an effort to have me banned from the group. 


The guy wants me banned because he said I called him "ignorant and stupid." I did describe his comments (not him) as ignorant, because they revealed a lack of knowledge of the subject.  I never called him stupid, though he probably is.  If I were still participating I would call him a woose.  I have never encountered a man who would handle a disagreement online by calling the administrator to have someone they disagreed with banned.  I was tempted to express this sentiment to him, but I'd already given Facebook too much of my time.


If you care to read through the exchange what you see how a filter bubble are created when one disagrees with the narrative held by the group. People will;


  1. Immediately reject the opposing opinion without actually examining it
  2. Manufacture a position that was never asserted and argue against it (attacking a strawman)
  3. They will make statements that are factually inaccurate to support their arguments
  4. When reason fails, and the fallacy of their argument is made plain, they will claim to be insulted--taking the critique of their statement personally
  5. Finally, when all else fails they will remove you from the group


Now obviously I could care less about being booted from a Facebook group; 


The main takeaway from this exchange for me is that as @Mel Hopkins said I should devote my time working with people who get it rather than trying to convince people who don't get it. You don't need an MBA to understand that monopolies are bad.  My two antagonists below won't even concede that point and  reject the notion that Amazon is approaching or exercising monopolistic power.


I simply found it fascinating to see, first hand, how a filter bubble are maintained. 


If you decide to read through this exchange you'll find that I'm was no more "insulting" that I am here :)  I also removed the images and last names of everyone involved except Karen and myself.

Karen E. Quinones Miller shared her first post.


Would You Stop Buying Books from Amazon.com to Save the Book Industry? Let us know what you think by filling out this very short questionnaire: https://aalbc.com/…/2017/10/25/stop-buying-books-amazon-com/

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…
SabrinaI never buy electronic books. I have a kindle and never use it. Nothing can replace the feel and smell of a book.ve
DanielleI 100% agree! I was so excited when I got my Kindle, but it's just not the same. . .
Susan Thats what I say . I never use my kindle .

Carol Kindle all the time for me, read so many new authors since I got mine 
Valerie My friend has been rejected so many times from publishing houses as they are extremely restrictive so she has now published three of her series of sixteen books and they are so popular. No I won't boycott Amazon in favour of publishers and a more restricted choice of authors. Plus digital books don't waste trees. I love old books but don't want to kill more trees for a book.move
Helen I buy what I can afford and that certainly doesn't include places like water stones whose prices are extortionate x
Kerry I love the smell and touch of new books but environmentally, for me, it has to be the kindle.Remove
Gabby  I buy real books through amazon. I do admit I also have some ebooks of hard to find books.
DianaNope never...I love my kindle and my library...as long as Amazon offers books I'll buy them
Bill I can get a book that store doesnt have for cheaper on amazon and delivered to my door the next day.e
Amethyst The only way I read now is digital. I used to read about a book a week pre kids, now I can't remember the last paper back I read. But I got a Kindle and use Amazon and the OverDrive app through my library and I've read more books this year then I have in the past 4move
Crissy I can only read digital books because of my rheumatoid arthritis.  if I read a hard copy book I am limited to reading for short periods of time.

Sarah I hope people wouldn't, it's where I sell my books primarily.
Sarah I hope people wouldn't, it's where I sell my books primarily.
[below is where Karen shared this comment with me--otherwise i would have been oblivious to it]
Troy Johnson Hi Sarah, this is a comment sentiment shared by self-published authors. But you sell your books primarily with Amazon because they are a monopoly, the lack of options is always a bad thing If you are not old enough to remember Ma Bell, think about your local cable company. Today Amazon sells books at a loss, tomorrow this will not be the case. Indeed they have already started gouging third party vendors simply because consumers are treating Amazon as if that is the only place to buy anything on line. Please tell us the how much Amazon takes from the sale of your books and if you believe this is fair?anage
Sarah Amazon takes 30% from the sale of my books which I believe is totally fair as it is far less than any other outlet would take. Boycotting amazon is completely irresponsible as it removes a livelihood from hundreds of self published authors. Frankly I hope this initiative falls so dead that it has the exact opposite to the desired effect. Why anyone would wish to see self published authors struggling even more is beyond me. I am honestly disgusted.
Troy Johnson I have just posted the preliminary results with tons of comments from people pro-amazon, anot-amazon and those who are unsure: https://aalbc.com/would_you_boycott_amazon.php
Troy Johnson María, Valerie, Roxanne It is interesting that some have made this an issue of Amazon versus mainstream publishing. Sure Amazon is manhandling the "Big 5" publishers, but my motivation for this action is to help independent authors, publishers, and booksellers.
Troy Johnson I'm not sure if you've read my article. In it I reference a report: Amazon’s Stranglehold: How the Company’s Tightening Grip Is Stifling Competition, Eroding Jobs, and Threatening Communities (Institute for Local Self-Reliance), you may download it here: https://aalbc.com/pdf/ILSR_AmazonReport_final.pdf Your explanation of Amazon's business model and the reason for the profits might change after reading more about how the company operates.

Troy Johnson María, being insulted is your choice. I simply did not think you read my article or any of the related information because of what you wrote. In many areas Amazon is, or approaching, becoming a monopoly. Surely you must realize a monopoly represents is a complete failure of capitalism. Now if you think Amazon is a reflection of capitalism working well; then we will have to disagree--no insult intended.


[Maria must have deleted the comment I responded to because it is no longer in the thread]

Valerie I purchase books from Amazon, Kobo, local bookshops, charity shops and mainstream sellers. I support local bookshops as I love them and don't want to lose them. So no this isn't just about Amazon.
SarahThen stop being a prat and kill this before it starts. You are going to HURT independently published authors beyond belief. Your actions are completely irresponsible and you clearly have not properly considered the consequences for the people who depend on ebook sales through Amazon to make a living.
Troy Johnson Sarah, my sole motivation for considering this action is to benefit independent authors, publishers, and booksellers. I would be willing to bet that I've made more money from Amazon that you have, since I've been an affiliate for them since 2002. If I were to boycott them I'd be cutting off a revenue stream--fortunately my livelihood is not dependent upon a single corporation. But again the very fact that you believe that I would "HURT independently published authors beyond belief" is precisely the problem I'm trying to solve. No author should be dependent upon one company. Again this is the situation monopolies create.
Sarah You obviously fail to see the point completely Troy Johnson. I have a very successful tuition business and rely on amazon precisely zero for the roof over my head. Others are not so fortunate. Attempting to make them destitute to further your own political cause in this way is frankly despicable.
Troy Johnson Being hyperbolic and accusing me of wanting to make others destitute is absurdly hyperbolic and/or disingenuous. But thanks for your comments.
Sarah That may not actually be your aim, but if this poorly thought out action were to succeed that would be precisely the result. I know you think you are doing a good thing here but your grasp of the potential consequences is atrocious.
Jess Sorry, I absolutely agree with Sarah. I have several friends who are self-published because they were refused over and over by the big publishing houses who are nothing but pleased with their experience publishing through Amazon. My sister-in-law used several different avenues to publish and Amazon has consistently been the best for revenue and getting her book out to the most people.
Troy Johnson HI Jess so you too agree that a Monopoly is good for the public? Here is another anecdote for you. I have been paid consistently by Amazon as an affiliate since 2002. But I'd be willing to boycott because writers, publishers and even readers are bei...See More
Jess Troy Johnson its interesting that several people who are publishing digitally via Amazon I've discussed your comments with have the same general opinion of your boycott "I don't want to cut off my nose to spite my face. Compared to what I made before, which is zero, I'm not selling at a loss on Amazon."
Jess Several also are of the opinion that you are trying to squash the livelihood of digital-only published authors. I'm not a writer, just a reader. But I will say you can pry my Kindle out of my cold dead hands, and my 86-year-old grandmother would probably kick you in the shins if you tried to take away the 15+ books a month she's able to read thanks to a resizable font screen and Kindle Unlimited.
Troy Johnson Jess I hear you, but can't you see that Amazon's monopoly on ebooks allows them to completely control the market place? Don't you see that the lack of competition actually reduces choice and raises prices? Do you think it is good that ebooks can be only read on devices controlled by one vendor's software? Suppose another vendor like B&N introduced a better eBook reader and called it the Nook, no one would buy it because of Amazon's monopoly of eBooks. This reduces innovation over the long term.
Jess Troy Johnson, I have both a Nook and a Kindle, actually. I prefer the Kindle. Not to mention B&N was already caught-out price fixing and I got a tidy refund thanks to the lawsuit. Since then I've given my business to Amazon and dont plan to do otherwise. I pay $100 a year for Prime. Amazon is one stop shopping for me, along with streaming movies, video, music and free/low cost books. 

Amazon employees a lot of people in my area, and the ones I know personally are happy with the company, pay and benefits. That also means I pay sales tax on Amazon because we have a local fullfillment center the next town over, so I have no qualms from a concerned citizen perspective about dodging state tax revenue.

You are twisting the argument about proprietary file types. The Nook was a closed system as well. I can download Kindle books to my phone, laptop, computer, other tablets etc. and read them with a free app provided by Amazon. That was a stretch for you at best, and makes it look like you're grasping.

Amazon's monopoly? I clearly said in my original post that my sister-in-law self-published through multiple avenues, but Amazon has been the best at revenue. So, how is Amazon a true monopoly when folks can self-publish other places? I have a close friend who justsr published a series and paid extra on two of the self-publishing websites for advertising and release day promos that never happened. Their response? "That sucks. No refunds." So the issue isn't all pricing, its not being very good at business. Amazon is good at what it does. Books are a loss leader for them. Its true. But dont pretend that an author is any more entitled to big bucks than a game developer or musician. There are self-published people who have made a nice sum off an app game that's gone viral (Candy Crush anyone? And that wasnt even original, it was a knock-off of a PC game from the 90s) and millions from a song (too many examples to list) at $1 a pop. You're complaining about what? $5 each on an ebook? When they've put in just as much time developing games and music as you have writing a book - likely more. 

Also you fail to address that Apple colluded with Random House and several other large publishing houses to set the price of books to break Amazon and later get a bigger cut. Short memory?

Finally, I find your assertion that it has the potential to hurt readers over time because its so hard on the industry amusing. That argument may have held water 20 years ago before we saw what the music and movie industries went through. But after all of the threats that bands would stop making music, film studios would stop making movies, and we'd see the end of independent labels its been the opposite to a laughable extent. Labels and studios are making less money, but I've still been to 11 concerts, 15 movies and bought several albums this year. There's been an explosion of independently created entertainment content thanks to the internet. I discover bands I would have never heard of before on Spotify and buy their music on Amazon. I can watch independent movies and shows on YouTube and various other avenues and kick them money directly via Patreon. Just like I can buy ebooks from independent writers and spread the money around. Your problem isn't with Amazon, its with progress.

Look the frank answer is, be glad you get paid for your books at all thanks to Amazon. Lots of people will kick out a couple of bucks for a book, but if they had to pay $15+ for a digital copy every time you'd see an even bigger jump in book piracy. If we want to get technical I could buy all my physical books at HPB amd Thriftbooks, and get my digital on Pirate's Bay but I don't. The music companies finally learned $1 a song via ITunes and Amazon was better than nothing. Its 2017, not 1917.
Troy Johnson I appreciate the thoughtful reply Jess. It is fascinating that you could make statement like this,

"Books are a loss leader for them. Its true. But don't pretend that an author is any more entitled to big bucks than a game developer or musician." 

First you gloss over the fact that Amazon is selling books below cost and completely ignoring of the ramification of that and then say that writers need not be paid well--like musicians. 

I just discovered a website with links to a few articles that explain these issues in more detail than I have tome to go into now. If you have time check them out, you might see thing from a different perspective: https://socialjusticebooks.org/about/why-boycott-amazon/ otherwise I'm sure their is nothing I can say to help you see a larger picture.
“Amazon’s business practices are…
Jess  Incorrect, you've already misinterpreted what I said. Musicians who make good music make good money by selling songs one at a time for $1. They develop a following, make some money off the door and merch. 
Developers who make good games make good money
. Even a console specific game is $60, which is nothing compated to how much it costs to make (usually several million dollars). And guess what, those are proprietary as well, hmmm.
Writers who write good books should make good money. They can earn it one sale at a time like everyone else.
I can hear songs for free and know if I want to buy them. I can free play trials of a game and know if I want to play them. With an ebook I can read a chapter or two and decide if I want to spend money on it. If you want to sell books write well.
Bad authors shouldn't be rewarded on the front end with $20 for an awful book. Yet they are when they're published with a book publisher, or if folks like you had their way. My earnings are just as important as yours. I think $5-$10 for a digital bookis fair, depensing on how well-known the author is.
Jess And I've followed the Amazon boycott business for a while now and have already read what you linked. It didnt change my mind then and hasnt now. 
My local Barnes and Noble is PACKED every time I walk in. If you dont want your books sold at a loss on Amazon get with a big publisher, let them take their cut, and sell only hard copies. Part of the problem known authors with a publishing house run in to is the double-dip on ebooks - their publisher takes a cut, Amazon takes a cut, and they get the rest. If Amazon is selling the ebook foe the publisher, shouldnt the publisher be the one giving up part of their cut? Or can they do no wrong? Hmmm...
If you want me to pay the same price for a digital copy as a hard copy you're chasing unicorns. Anything more than half for a digital copy means I'll wait and buy second-hand, so you dont get any money at all.
Jess María yes I noticed that. The fact he keeps repeating talking points, and even linked an article in rebuttal that mostly contained things I already addressed, is pretty telling. Its like talking politics, and I know where my opinion lies.

Troy Johnson I guess this is what is meant by classic "filter bubble." You two make stuff up and reinforce each other's unformed opinions. Yes, I'm a bookseller which is why I objectively know more about this subject than either of you. I'm sure in your ignorance you'll reject this notion. There is obviously nothing I can do about that.

Did you read that I have sold books, and have been paid by Amazon, as an affiliate since 2002? Amazon is not my competitor. I also sell books via B&N, Indiebound, through self-published authors and publishers. I sell books directly and provide links to the local library. My goal is to get books into the hands of people any way that makes sense. My business model deals with helping connect readers with the book they'll enjoy. You are too biased so see that my actions are not about my business--it is about the entire industry. 

Again, Amazon's near monopolistic power is adversely impacting the process of getting the best books into the hands of readers. Your refusal to comprehend this does not change this fact. The question I proposed is; Should we boycott Amazon's bookstore in order the save the industry?

Since both of you have demonstrated both very limited knowledge of the subject, and bizarre unwillingness (perhaps inability) to learn more. I'll leave you as you are. Fortunately, the majority do not share your limited view, which is encouraging. Peace.
Jess Troy Johnson all you seem to be interested in is slinging underhanded insults at people who disagree with you. So how about this? I would never EVER buy a book from you or anyone affiliated with you.
The majority of whom? Your fellow cronies you invited to take your poll? I asked five self-published authors I know their opinion on your poll, providing them your links, and they disagree with you as well. If the "majority do not share my limited view" then why is Amazon dominating the field?

Jess And obviously not the majority here, by the way. 3 likes out of an active group of almost two thousand members.
Karen E. Quinones Miller Jess
Jess, I consider myself affiliated with Troy Johnson, and am proud to say so. I understand your ire with Troy, under the circumstances . . . but am sorry that ire extended over to little ole me, who has done no harm and whom you've never met. 
Karen E. Quinones Miller María
I am an author… Not a publisher.
The reason I started a publishing company is so that I could self published my first book. As far as me just joined this group, I did not join it in order to start this thread. I thought it w
as a good group… And the thoughtful comments posted in this thread has reinforced that relief. If you guys feel that I should leave the group, I will. But I will consider it my loss. (Also, please note that I have "liked" everybody's comments on this thread not just Troy's. I have found all of them well thought out… And have been more fully educated on this issue by both the groups comments and Troy Johnson.)
Jess I've already reported this post, and hope one of the admins takes the time to review Troy's comments, in particular where he calls me ignorant and stupid. Obviously I'm smart enough to know when I've been talked down to and insulted. Which, last I checked, was not tolerated here.
Quite frankly I'm not interested in having any type of relationship with internet bullies who resort to insults when met with resistance to someone being swayed to their opinion. Nor am I interested in patronizing their businesses.
Karen E. Quinones Miller María
I understand your points, and I accept your criticism, adding an apology for disruption, though I'm sure you will understand my not apologizing for anyone else's behavior.
I would like to point out, though, that I liked ever
yone's post as they posted them. Or as soon as I came online and saw them. 
And for clarification, I didn't bring Troy in to stir trouble, but only for him to see the answers to the question he queried and I posted . . . I had no idea he planned to say anything. (But I will admit I liked the back-and- forth once he did. Very educational, in my view!)
I do hope I don't get blocked from this group because I think I can benefit from the interaction here. 
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
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@Troy , I'm not surprised... I used to be a amazon devotee.  hell, I used to be somewhat of an evangelical christian... now I barely say "grace" . I'm still a media junkie but now that I've focused on achieving my goals - I don't read everything. 


My point is you were dealing with a "cult".   They are addicted.   The ease of Amazon fulfills their needs - especially their need for acceptance. 


If you really examine their  words you can easily read through them to see how they believe amazon is their savior.  Even hearing the possibility of someone wanting them to boycott AMZN, the messiah,  makes them ill and you the enemy for suggesting it. 


You want to deal with independent thinkers. (self-acceptance is probably the Number 1 trait)
Also, forget about the bargain-hunters.  The only thing that will change their mind is if the prices go up or the product is cost-prohibitive.  For those addicted to their kindle -or the ease of digital readers,  there will have to be an alternative with a perk.  For example, they will be able to "own" their purchase and transfer their content to any device at will.


Yep, you'll have easier time recruiting folks who have already soured on Amazon   or even those looking for another way to publish independently.   Those people are usually business-minded and for them the bottom-line is their bottom-line.  For those recruits, the book business isn't an extension of their personality. It's a business.     So you're right, you don't need an MBA - you just need to be clued on business operations  and  "the cult of personality".  


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You are so right about "acceptance."  This explains why some authors are so pro-Amazon.  They say things like, "Amazon published my book when mainstream publishers rejected me."  Amazon publishes ANYBODY.  They think being on Amazon is a big deal.  Now when Amazon first started I could see thinking that way, but in 2017...gimme a break.


I too was keen on Amazon initially.  I was also keen on Google and Facebook too, but once these guys started abusing their power and have grown into damn near become monopolies I have to push back.   


Fortunately, there are enough folks who are interested in helping to organize a boycott of the bookstore--indeed many are already engaged in a personal boycott.  I'm not sure what a boycott will look like at this point, but I plan to reach out to folks today.  I'm going to shut down the questionnaire today.

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The tone here is more like a schoolroom brawl than a reasoned discussion. I agree with Mel, no point in wasting your time with people who are so glad to be in the club, that they can't see the exploitation.


Here is a related interview which broadcast on Oct. 26, 2017, on Terry Gross's Fresh Air entitled How 5 Tech Giants have Become More LIke Governments than Like Tech Companies. Farhad Manjoo, the tech columnist for the New York Times, is writing a book about this. He is someone who was very gung ho on all of them when they first started. Now he is wary of all of them.


Here's the link: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/freshair/episodes/2


I have heard rumblings from other people about different aspects of all these companies that have them ready to do something besides just complaining. But I do think it makes sense to focus on one aspect of one company.

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Thank you, Troy, for embedding the program. I haven't taught myself how to do that yet.


I don't have time to discuss this tonight, but here is a related topic. Manjoo mentioned robotics.


The Robots are Coming ! The Robots are Coming! The Robots are Here.


This doesn't have to be bad news if we plan ahead, use our imaginations, and put the common good above profits for the few. 


Here is a link to the latest article, If we spread the profits around, smart robots can work for ALL of us, from The Hightower Lowdown, the newsletter written by Jim Hightower:





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