Is it time to stop buying books from Amazon?
Did you know, according to a UK Government submission, over 50% of books in the UK are sold through Amazon? This share jumps up to 70-80% for books bought online, and the actual figure could be higher still when you include AbeBooks and The Book Depository (both platforms owned by Amazon). Globally, that statistic is even higher in some places! This poses big problems when we give a single company such power over the literature we consume in the name of convenience – especially given the moves Amazon have made to remove or censor books written by Christians, amidst a whole host of other unethical and anti-competitive business practices, which have been well-documented. For example, see the Wikipedia article on ‘Criticism of Amazon’ – at the time of writing – it sat at a little over 30,000 words! There’s a bit of light bed-time reading for you!
I think it’s a crying shame we’ve let Amazon subsume us. More and more, smaller, quality Christian bookshops and independent outlets are falling by the way-side, and in an age of ‘cancel culture’, we’ve got to hang on to these independent, free voices whilst we still can.
Jeff Bezos is a genius, of course; he’s made his billions and is apparently personally worth more than the GDP of 140 of the world’s 195 countries, or the poorest 48 nations combined. But you know the scary thing? Amazon actually operates its retail business at a loss! Its real cash-cow is in owning over a third of the total server-space that the web runs on through Amazon Web Services (AWS). This is yet more power we’ve given them and another way in which they can clamp down on freedom of expression as it suits them, perhaps most notably with shutting down the alt-right social media platform, Parler.
I’ve been doing my best to avoid Amazon for the last couple of years, and guess what I’ve discovered? Very often these small, independent places are much cheaper than Amazon! They may not work their delivery drivers to death to get stuff to you super-fast, but then in an age of instant gratification, that’s not a bad thing – any books or other items we order will be well worth the wait!
I don’t want this to just be an anti-Amazon rant or open up the way for wacko conspiracy theories. I just want to encourage you to think before you buy. Amazon are here to stay, they’re gonna be big whatever, they’ve built a good business – for many they will still be a useful, convenient option, but it always pays to shop around and use our money wisely. We ought to beware of our consumerist culture, we are the ones who have made Amazon the behemoth it is today. For some of us, perhaps we need to be told to stop buying cheap, useless tat we don’t need!
Thinking particularly of books, there are plenty of places to find quality, Evangelical, Reformed Christian literature. I’ve collected together some of the best places to find new and second-hand books at reasonable prices in the UK, both to order online or to have a good old-fashioned mooch about in a proper bookshop.