Why I Won’t Buy Books on Amazon

Amazon Sells Books at a Loss

It’s no secret that Amazon’s cheap prices come from selling books at a loss.  News stories about the company’s practices have been making news for years.  The Seattle Times, for instance, reported in 2012 that Amazon was asking McFarland & Co. to buy their books 45% off the cover price– a deal that would lose the publisher money.  Around that time, the company offered Berkshire the poor deal of paying than 40% of the cover price.  In 2015, The Washington Post covered a story about the American Booksellers Association’s concern with Amazon selling books below cost.  Their concerns stemmed from the inability of smaller publishers to provide such deep discounts, an inability that could lead to fewer publisher to stay in business.  Now a May 2018 New York Times article is making the rounds of the book blogosphere as it predicts the fall of Barnes and Noble due to their inability to compete with Amazon.  Amazon, as the article explains, attracts more consumers because of its lower prices–prices that are so low because they are often lower than the cost of producing the book.  Amazon is able to take this loss because consumers buy non-book products from the site to make up for it.

Amazon and Publishers Have Been in Ugly Disputes Over Book Pricing

Amazon is also able to offer such deep discounts because of a well-publicized track record of attempting to persuade publishers and authors into deals that are financially unviable for them.  In 2010, the “buy” buttons were taken off Macmillan titles when the publisher wanted higher prices listed for their books.  In 2012, Amazon removed IPG titles from the Kindle store because the publisher did not agree to unfavorable terms.  And in 2014, Amazon made news for refusing to offer discounts on or preorders for Hachette titles as the two companies argued over e-book prices.  Amazon is able to employ pressure by using such tactics because so many consumers buy books through their website; consumers who do not see a title listed may believe it is unavailable and not purchase it.

Amazon Customers May Not Be Purchasing from Publishers–And Thus Not Supporting Them with Their Money

However, Amazon also made a much less-publicized decision that would offer consumers lower prices while hurting publishers and authors.  In May 2017, Vox reported that the main “buy” button on a title’s page would not necessarily allow a consumer to purchase a book from the publisher.  Rather, an algorithm would determine whether consumers were purchasing from the publisher or any number of third party sellers. These third parties are offering new books that they themselves may not have purchased from the publisher.  The result is that Amazon customers might be buying a book and not giving the publisher (and thus the author) any money in exchange.

Publishers and Authors Need Money to Keep Producing the Books We Love

I have not bought physical books from Amazon in years specifically because of these practices.  (Though comments have made me realize that I do check out Kindle books from my library and that I have bought I think two ebook titles from Amazon more recently.  These practices I will have to reevaluate going forward.)  Even though other booksellers offer books at higher prices, I recognize that these prices are generally fair and are mean to support the publishers and authors, who often earn far less than readers assume.  If you want hard numbers, NPR summarized the results of a 2015 Authors Guild Survey indicating that the average author is not likely to be able to quit their day job any time soon:

Just over 1,400 full- and part-time writers took part in the survey, the Guild’s first since 2009. There has been a 30 percent decline in author income since then and more than half of the respondents earned less than $11,670 (the 2014 federal poverty level) from their writing related income.

Meanwhile, this 2014 Quora answer by Lee Ballentine asserts that 90% of titles published will lose moneyAs Vox explains, “Right now publishers can afford to subsidize a few prestige titles every year with the profits they make on the types of books that generally do sell well.”  The takeaway from all this is that publishers and authors actually need our money in order to keep publishing and writing.  They cannot afford to have Amazon routinely selling their books for less than they are worth as this will result in both lower profit margins and potentially in an increasingly financially unviable book market–a market where consumers now expect to purchase books for under cost.

What Can Book Bloggers Do?

The May 6 article from The New Times has caught the attention of book bloggers and a new discussion is opening up around the best way to support publishers, authors, and bookstores.  (Check out “The Decline of the Bookstore Part 2” @ A Great Read and “Bookstores: Are They in Danger?” @ Rabbit Ears Book Blog.)  Quite simply, the best way to do this is not to shop on Amazon. The low prices are tempting, yes.  However, if readers buy books at less than cost, this means that financially struggling publishers and authors will be able to produce fewer books in the future.  If readers buy books at less than cost, soon Amazon’s bookselling competitors will no longer be able to compete.  And then what incentive will Amazon have to keep those cheap prices, when they are the only bookseller around?  By buying Amazon’s books, readers get a good financial deal today, but only hurt themselves in the long term.  And, believe me, Amazon has been playing a long-term game since they opened, while the rest of us cheerfully snapped up their cheap titles.

If readers do not want Barnes and Noble to close, if they do not want indie bookstores to close, they need to support those places with their money.  Even if if means buying fewer books.  Readers naturally want their money to go towards enabling publishers to publish and writers to write.  The best way to do this is to pay for the actual cost of a book.

Other Suggestions for Supporting Publishers and Authors

  • Buy books as gifts.
  • Buy books to donate to schools, libraries, women’s shelters, and more.
  • If donating to a raffle, buy books as the prize.
  • If you want to buy books for yourself but don’t like the prices at Barnes and Noble, try the Barnes and Noble website.  Their books are cheaper online than in-store.  Barnes and Noble will also now let you order online and pick up in store so you can pay the online price but also get the book immediately.  (No, I don’t work for Barnes and Noble. )
  • Patronize your local library.  Increased usage stats means they can lobby for more funding to buy more books.

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111 thoughts on “Why I Won’t Buy Books on Amazon

  1. ashley says:

    I only buy books at Barnes and Noble. I will occasionally buy books from publisher websites as well. I love going to Barnes and Noble and just browsing the books, and getting recommendations from the booksellers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Grab the Lapels says:

      I have a Nook and but lots of books for it, but one concern I have is that if they close up shop, what happens to my ebooks? That’s the main reason I look for books on Amazon: they aren’t going anywhere. I feel trapped.

      Like

          • Krysta says:

            I’m worried about the ebooks, too. Some of the comments below made me realize I get my library ebooks from Kindle. They don’t offer Nook options! I think people worried for years that the Nook was going to disappear so didn’t invest in them. So I actually do own a Kindle (which I use largely as a tablet so I don’t have to drag my laptop around) and sometimes check out library books on it! I think I’ve actually bought maybe two ebooks from them, too, which I’d forgotten about since I prefer physical books.

            But, if I do want an ebook, what are my options? I think most people are convinced it’s only a matter of time before the Nook disappears as the financial reports for B&N always seem so discouraging. That means we will be left with the Kindle.

            Maybe for some people not buying on Amazon will mean more of cutting back on Amazon. Maybe not buying physical books there but still buying ebooks. It’s not a perfect solution, but I do recognize that everyone’s circumstances are different. For instance, some people find it easier to hold an ereader rather than a heavy physical book. They’ll probably have to keep shopping on Amazon because that’s the most viable option for them.

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          • ashley says:

            I asked someone who works at Barnes and Noble, they aren’t closing anytime soon and if they do close any books on your device won’t be affected, it’s the cloud that will be a concern when the time comes, which won’t be anytime soon.

            Like

            • Krysta says:

              I don’t think anyone expects B&No to close imminently. They’ve been reporting financial losses for years and haven’t closed yet. So in that respect, while I don’t necessarily expect B&N to announce a closure tomorrow, I also expect disappointing announcements in a few years if consumers don’t support them with their money.

              B&N has a long history of trying to make adjustments to enable them to survive. First they took out books to make room for gift items. Now they are shrinking the gift items section and saying they will focus more on books. Some stores are experiencing with serving alcohol. I suppose all this is promising.

              However, they also just had massive layoffs. This is supposed to save them money because many of the layoffs were full-time. Now they don’t need to pay benefits! However, I can’t help but think this is 1) concerning news if they’re that desperate to save money and 2) a bad business decision B&N sells themselves on the experience of a physical bookstore and the experience is going to be less than stellar if they are staffed by a rotating team of employees who are just doing the job until they can get something full-time (aka permanent). I also suspect the part-time staff are currently stressed trying to cover for all those layoffs. Many of the full-time people would have had more years of experience and more connections with local community members. B&N just cut off one of their greatest resources and that doesn’t bode well for their financial future to me.

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  2. Samantha Duffy says:

    This is so important and so fascinating! I try my very hardest to not buy books from Amazon. I have a Barnes and Noble membership, and if I preorder anything, it is almost ALWAYS exclusively from B&N.
    I also make it a habit to buy as many books as gifts as I possibly can. Not only is that representative of my character (and my friends/family expect that of me) but I like giving someone a book as a gift. It is so personal.
    I got my brother four books for his birthday, and just purchased the entire Magnolia (Chip and Joanna Gaines) collection for my mom for Mother’s Day. I also plan to purchase (almost) all my giveaway books from B&N- If I want to send internationally, I use Book Depository…

    Thank you for posting this though, I honestly had no idea about Amazon.. I have been making my purchases at B&N mostly because of how devastated I was when Borders closed, and I don’t want that to happen again (especially because there are barely any local bookstores in my area- none that I can think of anyway!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I do find it weird B&N is basically the only retailer to charge for their membership. However, I imagine most people recover the cost pretty quickly, even if it’s just in terms of saving on shipping costs. Along with the discounts, it ends up being a pretty good deal!

      I try to buy books for people particularly because some friends have told me I am the only one who gives them books–and I think they were sad! Perhaps non-readers don’t consider purchasing books for others? Or maybe they don’t know what to buy? But I do like what you said that buying a book feels like a really personal gift!

      Yeah, Book Depository is good for international shipping and for getting books published in the U.K. I don’t know anything about them or their business practices, though. I suppose I should research it sometime but I don’t typically shop there so it hasn’t seem pressing to me.

      Yeah, I think a lot of people are worried about B&N closing. The writing has been on the wall for years, but I am particularly concerned now because of the massive layoffs they just did. I know some stores basically cut all their full-time employees (aka the people who were there longest and did the most). Customer service will likely dip as a result. No full-time workers means larger turnover. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  3. PerfectlyTolerable says:

    I had no idea about this! Thanks for sharing! I was so sad when Borders closed and I hope Barnes and Noble doesn’t close! The used bookstore by my house also closed but that was because the owners were moving not because of financial stuff. Is it the same thing if you buy from Book Depository? They have really cheap prices too right? Thanks!

    Like

  4. Never Not Reading says:

    Great post! I knew some of this, but not all. Happily I buy books from amazon exactly once a year, for the Reddit Gift Exchange, 100% because it’s easier to ship from amazon than to take my books to the USPS. Which, really, says a lot more about my mistrust of USPS than it says anything about amazon… However, I will now be more active in encouraging my husband to go to a book store as well!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I enjoy that the US post office has media mail rates. But it is certainly more difficult to get there and mail stuff rather than just click and have Amazon or someone else ship for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Marina_Books of Magic says:

    I don’t buy from Amazon because the shipping cost to my country is 2x more expensive than the book itself. -.- We don’t have Barnes and Noble, Waterstones, or anything basically, so I buy on Book Depository. Their prices are higher, so I suppose they don’t do the same thing as Amazon, and they have free international shipping. They do have their share of issues, like month-long deliveries and books that arrive a bit damaged, but that’s the only site I can use. :/ I wanted to buy those Funko Pop figurines on Amazon, but the shipping cost for a $9 figurine is $50 for my country. Outrageous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      The Book Depository is actually owned by Amazon. They acquired it in 2011. I shop there, too, sometimes, even though I try not to buy books from Amazon because the free international shipping is just so useful. (As in, I live in the US, but sometimes I send books to international friends.) I’m not sure what what alternative to it would be. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marina_Books of Magic says:

        Wow I didn’t know that! With the prices being so different I thought they had no connections. Yep, free shipping is a blessing for me, I don’t know why Amazon has it at such high cost. I don’t have any alternatives here, except local bookstores where they don’t have much eh :/

        Like

        • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

          I’d have to look into it. It’s possible they just bought the company but continued to let them operate how they’d been operating before, and haven’t pushed the Amazon.com pricing scheme on them, but I’m not sure.

          Yeah, I struggle with the “support local bookstores” thing because it sounds great in theory, but my local bookstores never seem to have the books I want to buy….

          Liked by 1 person

  6. madisonsinkwell says:

    This was so interesting and informative! I always buy from Barnes and Noble but I’ll be sharing this with friends and family who buy from amazon 😄

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think the switch has been difficult for a lot of people precisely because Amazon is giant and so has a large stock and those low prices. I understand why people still want to shop on Amazon, but I’ve decided it’s not really worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Briana | Pages Unbound says:

    Great post! (Am I allowed to say that if you’re my co-blogger? Am I biased?)

    Anyway, I know a lot of people who generally think “Well, Amazon is bad, but they’re cheap, so I shop there,” but I think a lot of that stems from not actually knowing what “Amazon is bad” even means. Most people I talk to have no idea that Amazon sells books at a financial loss to themselves. Instead, they tell me how egregious it is that OTHER places are “cheating” consumers by charging more! (Well, not everyone can afford to purposely lose money on the products they sell???)

    Also, I would note that the Book Depository is owned by Amazon, since people often consider it an alternative to Amazon.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, that’s part of the problem with their low prices. They’ve accustomed consumers to buying books that cheaply and now I think we’re more resistant to paying the actual cost. 😦

      Like

    • Carrie @ Cat on the Bookshelf says:

      I agree that this is a great post, but I do want to comment on pricing. An independent bookstore owner told me years ago how Wal-Mart priced books at cheaper prices by distributing the cost elsewhere, and I figured Amazon did that too. I haven’t faulted stores for pricing books with that method because I like paying a cheaper price and because it seems like it doesn’t hurt the author. It might hurt one part of the store’s business, but it might result in more profit than charging higher prices for books or not selling books at all. From a more microeconomic perspective, I think if the store can afford to and wants to charge a lower price and if the customer wants to pay that price, then they are free to charge it.

      I became more annoyed when I read articles about Amazon changing its payment scheme to giving authors money based on how much of an ebook was read (pay per page) two or three years ago. I don’t know if it’s still happening, but it makes me wary of buying ebooks. Since I have a Kindle, I can only buy MOBI format books, so it limits my willingness to buy Amazon’s ebooks.

      Like

      • Krysta says:

        Well, my concern isn’t primarily that Amazon is using non-book sales to subsidize the loss, but rather that 1) their low prices are often also a result of their offering to buy from publishers at prices that would lose the publishers money and 2) the concern that their prices are driving book stores out of business. I don’t want to live in a world where there aren’t physical book stores anymore because Amazon created a model where we sell books for less than it costs to make them because Amazon can sell grills and blankets and shoes to make up for it. This model also makes it harder for publishers and authors to make money because consumers under-value their product and no longer want to pay a fair price. And publishers with less money are going to invest in fewer books. Therefore, I see Amazon’s model as hurting the publishing business as a whole, in the long run. It’s nice for them that they want to take the hit, but not nice for publishers.

        Is Amazon free to charge whatever they want? Sure, they can take a loss if they want. It’s legal. But, from an ethical standpoint, I find their business model troubling.

        I’d never heard of Amazon paying by page but that makes no sense. Presumably the consumer paid full price for the book even if they didn’t finish it, so why wouldn’t Amazon pass that money on to the creators?

        Like

        • Carrie @ Cat on the Bookshelf says:

          I see what you mean about Amazon’s ethics. It’s also unfair for Amazon to force physical bookstores into closing with its scheme and then opening its own brick-and-mortar store.

          The paying-by-page scheme was announced in 2015. This 2016 article talks about how the scam to trick Amazon into thinking readers read a lot is hurting authors: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/26/authors-lose-out-again-in-amazon-pay-per-page-scam.

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          • Krysta says:

            The irony is that people seem to enjoy Amazon’s brick-and-mortar stores better than B&N’s. I heard the customer service is far superior. B&N needs to rethink its branding if it wants people to shop there for the “experience!”

            Wow. I read the article and don’t even know what to make of Amazon’s non-response. How do pages read equal sales rankings? No one asks how many pages of a physical book were read to determine sales rankings!

            Like

  8. karma2015 says:

    Interesting post. I haven’t purchased any books from Amazon because I prefer shopping in an indie bookstores. Online just can’t beat the experience and feeling you get with an brick and mortar bookstore. But if there is a book I want online, I shop through Book Depository. I like the free shipping for just one book and their availability of UK titles. But if we are on boycotting anything Amazon, keep in mind Book Depository is a subsidiary of Amazon.

    I do question Amazon business practices and I do believe they have too much control. However, book publishers and Barnes and Noble are definitely not innocent. I use to work for Barnes and Noble and like Amazon, they would conduct sneaky and questionable business decisions that weren’t illegal but didn’t really put them in a positive light. Book publishers would like us to think that they are not being paid fairly, however, a huge chunk of the sales go to the publisher, the editor, the agent, the bookstore, a whole bunch of other people before it goes to the author. Authors are not going to go after their publisher, so they go after the next big bad and easier target: Amazon.

    Amazon may have put a dent in Barnes and Noble’s sales but Barnes and Noble’s decline is all of their own doing. They never saw Amazon as a real competitor until it was too late (when I worked there, a manager told us Apple was our competition). Barnes and Noble lost focus and refused to evolve. So Amazon cannot really be the main component of B&N’s decline, because if that was the case, then how come indie bookstores are starting to thrive again?

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I don’t think it’s really a secret that the publisher/editor/copy editor/cover artist/ art department/marketing people/sales people/publicity people/agent/etc. get paid, though, nor do I think most people think they shouldn’t get paid and that all the money should go to the author. Arguably, the amount of people who need to get paid for working on the book is why book prices need to be higher than Amazon is charging. Also, most books lose money when published, so a lot of authors are actually making more money than they “deserve” in some sense. If the publisher gives an author a $25,000 advance for a book, the author needs to earn that out before making royalties on additional sales. Many, many books do not earn out their advances.

      Also, I think the fact that publishers allow bookstores to return unsold books and then reimburse them for it is a point in favor of publishers. Barnes & Noble has so little risk in acquiring books to sell because if they don’t sell, they just send them back to the publisher for the refund and take no financial loss themselves on those books. (Though there are occasionally exceptions to this.)

      Like

      • karma2015 says:

        Actually the publishers don’t always take them back. Barnes and Noble gets an alert saying that the publisher wants the book off the shelf. Either they take it back or booksellers strip them (we tear off the front covers to recycle them). If the publisher doesn’t want them back (which happens a lot) Barnes and Noble keeps them and sells them as publisher remainders and sells them at a cheaper price (Bargain Books). If the publishers take books back, they are not going to give Barnes and Noble a refund, only fraction of it, which can hurt both the publishers and Barnes and Noble’s profits.

        The bottom line is that I think we as consumers need to learn more about all the different book buying so we can be more conscientious about our book buying purchases.

        Like

    • Krysta says:

      For me, a large point of supporting Barnes and Noble is because they are Amazon’s last major competitor. I also am in favor of supporting indie stores, though I recognize this is more difficult for many people. My local indie store carried few titles I wanted, charged outrageous shipping prices, and is now a thing of the past. I would say that my local indie store may have also contributed to its demise with its poor title selection and sometimes appalling customer service. And yet I did try to support it with my money since 1) I believe in small businesses and 2) I don’t want Amazon to be the only game in town.

      Like

      • karma2015 says:

        I’m sorry your indie store did that. Possibly it was trying to compete with Amazon’s “Fast Shipping” policy and it backfired on them.

        Like I said, I used to work at Barnes and Noble and I disliked their business practices and their treatment of their employees so that is why you will not hear a ringing endorsement from me. But I do share your concern about their future, especially in rural areas where Barnes and Noble is their only bookstore.

        With blog posts like these and the conversations we are having, the chances of Amazon being the only game in town are very slim, but still something we need to be concerned about. They said that about Barnes and Noble and look what is happening now. Book lovers are aware that this is happening and trying to make more people aware of why it so important to shop at your local bookstore. We live in a society that requires “instant gratification” and Amazon’s entire business model takes advantage of that. Loyalty weighs more than convenience.

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        • Krysta says:

          At times, I was really confused by what my local indie bookstore was doing, but I was devastated when I heard it was closing! A lot of the community was, too, which was somewhat surprising to me as the store never seemed particularly full when I went…. I kind of wish we could have harnessed all that positive energy BEFORE the store had to close!

          I think no business is going to be perfect. I do have some problems with Barnes and Noble such as the fact that they often don’t stock classic titles I want. I also question their recent massive layoffs. When your main business weapon is the “experience” of shopping at a physical store, having your part-time employees struggle to cover the work of all the laid-off employees is not ideal, to say the least. But no one at B&N has asked for my opinion. 😉

          I think the decision of where to buy books is ultimately going to be really personal for people. I support indies, but recognize some people don’t have an indie bookstore. It makes sense to suggest that the Book Depository, as owned by Amazon, is not a great place to shop, but I recognize that the Book Depository is a major resource for international readers and I’m not sure what the alternative would be. I also recognize that the Kindle basically has the entire ebook market right now, so people will likely to continue to shop Amazon for digital books.

          But I like what you said about the conversation happening. That does make things seem hopeful. 🙂

          Like

  9. saraletourneau says:

    Wow.

    I often wondered why Amazon’s prices were so low, but never really bothered to look into the why. And now I see just how much their methods impact authors and publishers… and it makes me realize how badly I want to see Barnes & Noble survive. I have a membership after all – so why don’t I make more use of it? Even if the long term isn’t looking good for them, I would rather buy books from B&N than a company that’s manipulating the publishing industry.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Part of me thinks it’s only a matter of time before B&N goes the way of Borders. But I would be sad to see that happen both because I enjoy browsing bookstores (harder to do as I watch all the local indies stores close over the years) and because I do believe that Amazon isn’t going to keep their low, low prices if they don’t have anyone to compete with anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Krysta says:

          I’ve never read a news story about Books a Million so I’d generally think that’s in their favor. (I’ve read lots about Amazon’s practices in various periodicals over the years.) On the other hand, I did a quick search and Wikipedia informs me that in 2014 Books a Million was voted one of the worst places to work due to high stress and low pay, so that’s not great.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. D.Buchelli says:

    The more unfortunate fact is that most indie authors sell directly ON Amazon.com as they are the largest online marketplace and thus give authors more exposure.This traps the author in a ‘should I stay or should I go’ frame of mind, where the less ethical practices of Amazon cause a feeling of intense disgust inside the author’s soul, but the author is at a loss with how to proceed, without severely limiting their potential for those miniscule sales. :/

    I genuinely LOVED your post about Amazon. I wish more people would stand up to them, so we could build a better bookish world online. Sadly, change takes time. :/

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yes, I have seen indie authors defend Amazon for giving them a platform. However, I think part of the problem we’re seeing is that Amazon seems to be running a virtual monopoly in the bookselling world. Indie authors ought to have more options so they have more bargaining power. Large publishers face a similar dilemma with Amazon since not selling their stock on such a huge website would eat into their revenue, but selling on Amazon usually isn’t in their financial favor, either. :/

      The main complaint I see among book bloggers is that they need to use Amazon because it’s cheaper. Well, yes, it is. But that’s the entire problem.

      Liked by 1 person

      • D.Buchelli says:

        I agree with you 100 %. I think the main issue is that we would ALL have to band together to protest against Amazon to make any real change. If we could find more people with the same views as us, we could always start our own cause and protest. I’d happily travel around the uk to do so if it meant making a change for the better. What are your thoughts on trying to gain support for a following against Amazon’s practices? 🙂

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          I guess I’m not sure how to go about that because Amazon’s business practices have been news and thus semi-common knowledge for years (hence all the news article I could link to). I’ve seen many readers argue that they need to continue to shop there anyway precisely because of the low prices. In this case, the evidence may not be enough to effect change, though I did hope that writing about it would remind people that this is an ongoing problem. (Briana has speculated that many readers simply knew Amazon was “bad” but didn’t realize all the things I could link to here. So perhaps more education could work.)

          I also wonder how we would address certain issues such as the fact that the Book Depository, owned by Amazon, seems to be the main source of books for international readers due to the free international shipping. And the fact that Amazon basically has cornered the ebook market. I’ve seen many bloggers with disabilities discuss how ereaders are great for them. Where are they to buy books if not Amazon? Few people want to invest in a Nook because most people assume it’s only a matter of time before the Nook disappears–along with their ebook purchases.

          So while I (obviously) don’t really support Amazon and try not to give my money to them, I think we also need to think about what our other options would look like. And I’m not sure I have an easy answer for that right now, aside from advising people to think about what their individual situations allow them to do.

          Liked by 1 person

          • D.Buchelli says:

            You make so many excellent points, Krysta. I’ve heard time and time again that Amazon are tricksters, cutting corners where they can. I agree that more education on the subject could help, but I suppose people have to be willing to open their minds to the reality of the situation and sadly, I’m not sure people will just yet.

            The best thing we can do is to find alternative means of purchasing books where we can, even if we begin to buy more in bookstores, instead of online.

            I hope you’re having a good week so far and I’m sorry if this reply was somewhat delayed. 🙂

            Like

            • Krysta says:

              I just read that Amazon may fulfill up to 50% of physical book orders so I think it’s pretty clear that all the news articles about their practices haven’t been able to convince readers it’s worth paying a bit more for a book. The strange this is, Barnes and Noble now has pretty comparable prices on their website–usually within a few dollars–and yet people still insist they must have their books shipped from Amazon when they don’t have a physical bookstore nearby. Do people just not compare prices?

              Liked by 1 person

            • D.Buchelli says:

              I’m from the uk so sadly we don’t have any Barnes and Nobles stores. However, it is on my bucket list to visit the US and browse all of your beautiful bookstores.

              If the prices are similar, I see no reason to go to Amazon over Barnes and Noble. I’m going to begin buying more and more books from Barnes and Noble because I think, little by little, it will convert people if they see more readers going over to B&N.

              Like

  11. Angelica Joy says:

    Thank you for this enlightening post. I will be sharing it on My Sunday Post this week.

    I did not actually know Amazon did this. I just assumed that because they’re such a large company publishers can sell it for a lot cheaper because they purchase bulk. I did not know they are using bullying and monopoly.

    I think alot of people are locked in to Amazon due to having a kindle. Their ecosystem does not allow you to buy anywhere else.

    Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, I have a Kindle. Admittedly I use it mostly as a tablet and for e-galleys and don’t buy many e-books from Amazon. However, when I bought my first e-reader (before the tablet ones), I purposely bought a Kindle rather than a Nook because I could see the way the market was going even years ago. My prediction that B&N would basically give up on the Nook has finally come true.

      Like

    • Krysta says:

      That’s a great point about the Kindle. My library offers ebooks through the Kindle app since, well, what other ereader or app does anyone have these days? But, then, should I stop borrowing ebooks since I’m indirectly supporting Amazon?

      Like

  12. Vanessa says:

    Wow, this was an eye-opening post! I’m currently unemployed, so at the moment buying a book at full cost is just not an option if I want to read a new release right away (though I’m slowly getting over my Fear Of Missing Out). Even a little 300-page book can still be priced at $18.99. I can spend 1/3 my grocery budget for a week on that. However, my significant other knows what my favorite indie book store is so he’ll occasionally get me a gift card from there. Barnes and Noble occasionally has sales and discounts on newer releases now, so I try to order from them when I can. They even have a Pick Up In Store option that I didn’t see before, so I recently ordered some books online and picked them up later (better than waiting for delivery). Also, every time I go out of town, my S.O. and I visit a local bookstore and use our souvenir money on buying a book at an indie. We LOVE perusing indie bookstores. The vibe at each one is so unique and people are friendly, so I love supporting them.

    My thing is I feel like there ARE more things B&N can do from a business perspective to compete with Amazon and I just feel like they aren’t implementing new ideas to bring readers into the stores. I have noticed a few more discounts in some stores, but not much. But with all this new information you did research for, I will definitely try to be more conscious of my book purchases in the future. I’ll be adding this post to my May Wrap-Up! Very informative. Thank you.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, it is tough to afford to buy books. Most of the books I buy are as presents and then I just use the library for myself. And I agree about B&N being able to do better. A few more coupons (not weirdly specific to things I don’t buy) would encourage me to shop there more. Also, I’d love if they scaled back on a few of the gifts and add more books so I don’t have to go online for specific titles. Some of B&N’s problems are arguably of their own making, but I hope we can see some improvements from them going forward.

      Indies are also great. My town used to have a few, but I’ve watched them close one by one over the years. it’s very disheartening.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. kerri says:

    omg i did not know so much of this! I use amazon bc of the super fast shipping i get with my dad’s prime account (recent grad mooching off parents ftw lol), but i may have to look into book depository more and just suck it up with the shipping! I use my local bookstores/library as much as possible but i live in a big city so it’s hard to get there sometimes! gah, off to find more decent vendors i go!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I can’t deny Amazon has great, fast, and free shipping. They are doing well because they offer so much that customers really want. And it is, of course, much more convenient to shop online. I think how people buy books will really be up to them and their personal situation. Some people don’t have local indies or maybe they don’t have transportation to a local store, so different factors will play into how people shop. I tend to use the B&N website so I can get prices comparable to Amazon and not have to go out to the store when it’s inconvenient, but that doesn’t mean my solution will work for everyone.

      Like

  14. Michael J. Miller says:

    I’ve always been a brick and mortar guy – I feel good about supporting those who work at the physical stores, supporting the local economy, and I just like actual human interaction. So I’ve always been wary of Amazon, using it mostly when I can’t track a book down any other way. However, after reading this I don’t know if I can keep using it at all. I knew it was bad but I had no idea just how evil their practices actually are.

    I tell my students all the time (when we do our Peace & Justice unit) that we have to a) learn and b) do our best to change our lives in the ways we can to help combat injustice. After reading this, I have to do just that. Thank you for the informative and well researched piece.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think readers struggle with the Amazon question because the company is so big and thus offers services they find useful. People in rural areas with no local bookshops like the online inventory and free shipping. International readers like the Book Depository, which is owned by Amazon, because that site offers free international shipping. And, as another commenter pointed out, Amazon essentially owns the ebook market now. I realized that my library offers ebooks through Kindle and maybe I shouldn’t be checking them out and thus indirectly supporting Amazon. However, despite compelling reasons to shop on Amazon, it does seem to me that supporting their business practices is not something I can justify to myself. I would prefer that any money I spend on books actually go to helping publishers and authors create more books.

      I also like the idea of supporting the local economy. I like to know that my money is helping my neighbors out and creating a more vibrant community for all of us. Sadly, my local indie bookstore is now a thing of the past. I rather wish that my community would have recognized what a treasure we had in that bookstore and supported it more with our money rather than taking it for granted.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael J. Miller says:

        That’s the thing too. As you put in the above post, Amazon rolls in and offers all sorts of crazy discounts. They put the brick and mortar stores out of business…and then they can do whatever they want. Prices will go up and quality will continue to slip. When Amazon started, every book came perfect, wrapped in plastic and on a supportive backboard. Now, of the times I use them, more often then not they come banged up, bent, or damaged.

        I’m lucky. Right now I live in a place with a Barnes & Noble, a tinier Books-A-Million, and two independent/used book stores. My local comic shop is also an independent used/new book store. Whenever possible, I shop there. I’m walking through those places at least once a week.

        Social justice issues aside, it’s just more fun! Some of the best books I’ve ever read I’ve found from just wandering around a book store and reading the backs of random books. The fun of browsing and just hanging out in a book store also disappears if we lose these stores to Amazon.

        When that happens, we do lose a treasure. And for communities that have already lost all local book stores, independent or chains, then Amazon appears to be the only option. What makes me extra sad is it was the allure of cheap prices and convenience that got us here :(. I hear so many people say, “Why would I go to a store to pay more when I can order from my couch and pay less?”
        I just want to scream, “Because you’re supporting your local economy! Keeping people in jobs! And it’s HUMAN INTERACTION!” As you said, we often don’t know what we have until it’s gone.

        But we’ll keep fighting and celebrating what we have while we have it.

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          Hm. I wonder if the books are coming banged up now because they are being fulfilled by third parties? I was just talking to someone who was confused that part of her order was wrong and someone told her it was because they’d come from third parties. She, obviously, pressed the main “buy” button and assumed the book was via the publisher.

          Yes, I agree! The experiencing of browsing is wonderful and has given me some real treasures! It’s really not the same shopping online as you typically just type in what you want already! Or hope the algorithms give you something relevant, which is not always the case.

          I’ve been discussing the closure of my indie store with people and more than one objected that they never bought anything there because of the prices. They didn’t seem to understand why I would be upset. But local stores are truly irreplaceable! I can’t just pop in while passing by, check out titles, make small talk with the workers.

          Strangely, however, human interaction seems not to appeal to people these days. Try to talk to someone on the phone. They won’t. They’d rather text. I actually read an article about younger people being afraid of doorbells because their friends just text to say they’ve arrived. So a doorbell is scary now because it means an unknown person is at the door. And I’ve seen studies suggesting teen pregnancy and car fatalities may be down because teens are…wait for it…not leaving home because they’re on social media. They’re not interacting with each other! So perhaps saying indie stores are about “human interaction” is actually scaring people away. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          • Michael J. Miller says:

            I know and that makes me so sad! I’ve had people look at me quizzically when I say we need to go to actual stores just to interact with people. The fact that everything can be bought from the couch (saving time and avoiding human interaction) is an appeal to a growing number of people. But I’ll keep fighting it! We lose so much when we lose community, solidarity, and the desire to interact with one another.

            The doorbell/pregnancy/accident thing is mind blowing. On the one hand, I can’t fathom such relative isolation. On the other, sadly, it makes total sense. I see it in my classes. When I started teaching, the last few free minutes of class lead to kids chatting with each other. Now, since we’ve gone to a one-to-one iPad situation, the first use of free time is often to check the internet. It still makes me sad though…

            The third party shipping thing makes perfect sense too. Some orders still come carefully shipped so I always presumed it was what happened when it was boxed up. But it being where it came from is far more logical.

            Oh, and I thought of these posts today! I’ve been looking for the trade collections of ‘The Infamous Iron Man.’ I want to read them as part of a post I’m working on about the idea of redemption with villains. I checked Amazon to see how many volumes were out and saw how ridiculously cheap they were. Out of habit I put them in my cart. But then I thought of your posts and our conversations and immediately deleted them. I’m sure my local comic shop and/or Barnes and Nobles has them. Yes, the post may take a little longer to write if a volume needs to be ordered or if I decided to space out buying them but I’ll feel a lot better about myself. I grant, especially as a Catholic school teacher, Amazon’s prices are appealing. But there’s more to shopping than what I can save and how quickly I can buy something because of the price. There’s the justice element too. If there’s a time or two where other purchases/budgeting means I wait a little bit longer for a book, so be it.

            So I wanted to let you know these pieces you’ve written have had a literal, concrete effect on how I’ve shopped just this week. Thank you for this, sincerely.

            Like

  15. Book Bosomed Blonde says:

    Wow, I feel like I’ve just been slapped in the face. This is such an eye opener and so important.

    I usually buy from my bookstores anyways because I enjoy the experience of walking around but I have seen books I felt were incredibly overpriced and then went on Amazon to find them significantly cheaper. I’m definitely going to be winding alternatives. Wordery seems pretty good but then again I don’t know their background.

    Thank you for sharing this information xx

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, it seems like Amazon makes news every year or so for some of their business practices, people get upset, and then we move on because the services are fast and the prices low. I don’t know what the answer is. Especially in the U.S., it seems like most people shop on Amazon or use some of their services. (I just realized I sometimes check out ebooks on Kindle from my library. It’s not like they offer Nook options!) Extracting ourselves will be difficult and take time and probably a concerted effort.

      I’m afraid I don’t know much about Wordery!

      Like

  16. Jheelam says:

    This is enlightening in so many ways. In India, many small businesses, e-commerce sites got out of business because of the cheapest prices Amazon offers. Never knew that Amazon does it too indie publishers as well.

    Here in my city, most of the yesteryear brick-and-mortar bookshops are closing down one by one. Now, I can guess, this can be one of the reasons as well (decreasing reading habit, pirated copies have to be another ones). This all so sad.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I’ve watched my local indie shops close one by one over the years. It’s difficult for them as they typically charge the full cover price and no one pays to pay that anymore! They tried to offer local author selections and maybe cool things like autographed copies by big name authors, but I guess those strategies weren’t enough in the end. I think the problem is that sites like Amazon have conditioned us to think we should never have to pay full price.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Birdie says:

    WONDERFUL post, Krysta. I bought a Prime membership years ago, and we have a Fire TV, a Fire Kindle, the Kindle Voyage… so we’re been steeped in Amazon’s services for years. However, over this last year (especially) I’ve been trying to limit and minimize any money I spend on Amazon at all. I now have the B&N membership, and do my online book and purchases on their website, and I frequently go shop in store. With the membership discount you’re getting close to Amazon prices, and your supporting a bookstore. (Plus, their membership is 25ish a year, whereas Amazon’s is now 120 a year.) It’s definitely worth it. My husband and I are now even talking about canceling Prime, because it’s not like we watch anything on it, and if we aren’t buying anything, what’s the point of continuing to pay them.

    I think it’s also hard for me to ignore the heinous way Amazon does business, because I’m in the publishing fulfillment business. My company stores books for publishers, and we ship their books out to individuals, bookstores, and Amazon on their behalf. It’s hard to ignore when we have quite a few Indie pubs, and even larger ones, and watching the neverending battles and the awful way that Amazon treats their vendors.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think it is increasingly difficult to extract ourselves from Amazon when they have such a huge corner of the market and they do offer services and prices people want. I just realized the ebooks I check out from the library typically come from Amazon! I guess I could try the read in browser option, but not everyone wants to have to have Internet to read their ebook and the library doesn’t offer Nook options! And I imagine that people will want to watch Amazon’s Lord of the Rings “prequel” when that starts streaming. It will be hard for fans to walk away from something that huge.

      Still, I think it does make sense to try to start extracting ourselves at least a little over time. I don’t want Amazon to have complete control over the bookselling market. I can’t imagine that would encourage them to treat their vendors any better!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Cahleen @ The Alt Story says:

    Wow, I sort of knew some of this but didn’t realize it was this bad. I hardly ever buy books because I’m a huge library user, and if I do need to buy a physical book I usually order from The Book Depository because I live in Taiwan (and I had no idea they were owned by Amazon). What worries me is the ebooks! I am a huge Kindle Paperwhite user and basically can’t imagine reading any other way. If I can’t get a book in mobi format I basically don’t read it. Now I feel like I’m contributing to the machine!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think Amazon makes the news every few years for their practices, people get upset, and then we go back to enjoying their services and low prices. But it is admittedly difficult to extract ourselves. I just realized my library primarily offers ebooks through the Kindle app. Do I stop checking out ebooks? Do I try to the read in browser option? Seems annoying as then I’d need Internet to read, but it’s worth a try. (Then again, I don’t regularly read ebooks so it’s less of a stretch for me.)

      And then what about people with no local indie or physical bookstores? What will their best option be? Maybe using an online site for another bookseller, but maybe not.

      I’m not sure how the Book Depository does their pricing, but I do recognize that the international community may not have any other viable options. Their free international shipping is certainly the best! I think everyone may just have to evaluate their options and figure out what they think is the best way to get their books. Maybe that will look like using some Amazon services, but cutting down on others. I don’t think there’s a cut-and-dried answer for everyone in this case.

      Like

      • Cahleen @ The Alt Story says:

        Yes, I noticed that about my library as well. For me, it’s easy to just decide to never buy a physical book on Amazon again, but I feel like that isn’t saying much since I hardly ever buy physical books anyway. You’re right, there’s no cut and dried answer.

        Like

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      Yeah, as much as I dislike what Amazon has done to the book industry, I have a Kindle, too. It’s hands-down the most convenient way to purchase ebooks, and I can’t imagine getting some second tier ereader that would be a massive inconvenience to me, just to make a point. It’s a difficult situation. Amazon has done well in part because they do offer useful services and do offer great customer service. I was in one of their physical stores last year, too, and thought it was run pretty well, too. They’re just great for customers and awful for authors and publishers, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Very informative post! I didn’t know about a lot of this, though of course I’ve known that they were pricing competition out of the market for years. I’m not a huge fan of Amazon, but like a lot of people in the comments have said, a lot of us readers are stuck on kindles and wouldn’t be able to find an alternative unfortunately.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, that’s why I’m hesitant to do an all-out “Everyone stop buying there now!” message. For instance, I’ve seen people with disabilities say ereaders are better for them in some cases rather than physical books. Well, Kindle is the main place to get ebooks, so people who prefer ebooks are kind of stuck. So I think people have to decide on an individual basis if they’ll just cut back on purchases, purchase some things from there but not others, or whatever works for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Madam Mim says:

    I have to say, I do shop on Amazon for the convenience… and because otherwise it’s almost impossible to find the titles I want in my local bookstore, or get them on the day of release… but I know their practises are awful. Am looking into other alternatives. In all honesty, I prefer a trip to the bookstore, and I haven’t found Amazon to be that much cheaper.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      My local indie bookstore typically didn’t carry the titles I want. I wasn’t overly impressed by whoever their book buyer was. I often use the Barnes and Noble website instead because their prices are lower than in store. But it is nice to be able to go into a physical store and browse!

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Evelina @ AvalinahsBooks says:

    Every time I buy from Amazon I feel guilty. But I’m also not from America, and things work very differently financially here, and if I didn’t buy from Amazon, I wouldn’t be able to buy and read at all. So it’s a constant dilemma 😦

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, people’s individual circumstances will likely affect how they buy books. Amazon owns The Book Depository, too, which many international readers like for the free international shipping. I don’t know what the alternative to that would be.

      But I think if even some people move some of their purchasing power to other booksellers, it would be a start. We see now that not paying attention has lead to having only Amazon as an option! Just look at ebooks. No one wants to own a Nook anymore because we expect Barnes and Noble to close. So Amazon basically runs the ebook market. I don’t think I can criticize people for buying stuff on Kindle when that’s pretty much their only option.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. spicejac says:

    Wow I didn’t know Amazon owned The Book Depository…..great suggestions, and as a Librarian, I’d encourage everyone to visit the Library and borrow the books….

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I did mention going to the library, though increasingly in the book blogosphere that seems to be a controversial suggestion because “not everyone has access to a library.” I like to think that the suggestion is generally meant by people as one to be applied by people as they see they are able to do so. But it is strange to me to be blogging for seven years and suddenly see a bit of a backlash towards the suggestion that libraries are great resources.

      In fact, I think libraries are so awesome that I would suggest that people without libraries could maybe work to found one in their communities–and I bet a ton of book bloggers would be willing to help donate books or money towards such a project! But this idea doens’t seem to catch on.

      Liked by 1 person

      • spicejac says:

        I’m in Australia, and so unsure about how Libraries are funded elsewhere – but here most communities have access to a Library – even if it’s a mobile library (ie a Librarian and a truck/van). For communities in remote and regional areas – libraries are the only way people can read new materials – they can’t afford to buy the books….they also provide the fundamental community services of storytimes for children, homework spaces, meeting spaces, access to free wifi and computers….

        So I agree – why would you backlash against a service dedicated to helping people access information? I for one could not afford to buy all the books I read…and that’s why I’m a member of three different libraries…

        Like

        • Krysta says:

          Yeah, the same is true of the U.S. Most areas have some sort of library access, even if some areas have smaller libraries or some people need to travel farther to libraries. But bookmobiles, library cards that can be applied for online, and ebooks have made library materials much more accessible over the years! And I think that’s the conversation to have. How can we continue to expand access to people? We can recognize difficulties, but remain positive and creative about confronting them.

          Liked by 1 person

          • spicejac says:

            I know that Libraries here in Australia are always reaching out to their communities to ensure that the services they offer are meeting their requirements. The fact that the area I live in has quite a low level of access to e books means that the library is always buying new hard copy materials…..it’s a great service and truly inspiring.

            Liked by 1 person

  23. Kristyn @ Reading To Unwind says:

    Great topic that I think needs more coverage. I never buy books on Amazon. I do lean on my library a lot because I can easily request books online and it is close to my house. Also, there is a small bookstore in my town that I typically go to buy a book that I just need to have.

    Like

  24. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says:

    Full disclosure: my husband works for Amazon, but even before he did, I was a lot more sympathetic to the company than a lot of people seem to be. I definitely see your points—especially about the fact that Amazon uses its power to make things harder for publishers (I will point out that other big companies, including B&N, do that as well). And Amazon has opened up avenues for a lot of self-published authors.

    But I think the bookstores that are doing well against Amazon are the ones who are offering things Amazon can’t—-they’re selling an experience. The best indie bookstore near me has tons of author events, book clubs, teacher events, etc, and they’re thriving. I’m happy to spend more money on my books there when I’m getting something that makes it worth the extra money. (On the flip side, there are two indies that are closer to me than the amazing one, but I never shop at them because they just don’t have anything I’m interested in). B&N doesn’t offer much more than a room full of books that I can get online. I’m not willing to spend more at B&N to keep them afloat if they’re not offering me something that makes it worth it. They’ll have to figure that out to beat out Amazon, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. I know that’s a bit of an unpopular opinion, though.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I do think Amazon does a lot of things right and I know that many self-published authors defend the company. Still, I find many of their practices unethical and can’t justify buying books there to myself. Barnes and Noble may have unethical practices, but, while Amazon has made news for theirs for about the past decade, I have found no similar news stories about B&N. The worst criticisms I can find are that the store had made poor business decisions and often has poor customer service, which I don’t disagree with. That’s hardly unethical, though. So if I have to make a choice, I’d rather support B&N and try to keep a physical bookstore open in my area.

      Unfortunately, I’ve seen most of my local indies close. When I have broken the news to others, all anyone said was that they never bought anything there because it was “too expensive.” For most people, the experience and the events weren’t enough when they could shop online for less. :/

      Like

  25. Daniela Ark says:

    what a great post and suggestions Krysta! I don’t buy many books because I can afford them so Amazon doesn’t get much from me in that regard and I do use my local libraries a lot and try to support bookshops as much as I can!

    Like

  26. deborahkehoe says:

    I have also recently discovered an audio service called Libro.fm. It’s like audible, but when you sign up for your subscription you choose an independent bookstore who receives the funds from your purchase. I’m sure Libro.fm gets a cut, but it’s linked to my loval bookstore. Its pretty much the same as Audible, set up with a credit per month. I think the cost may be $1-$2 more but supporting our local stores is so important! You made so many great points! Thanks for posting this discussion it has made me think about what else I can do!

    Like

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